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Only about 25% of Japanese universities have imposed blanket smoking ban, survey finds

JIJI, Staff Report

Only about 25 percent of universities in Japan have imposed blanket bans on smoking on all campuses, months before tighter regulations come into force, according to a recent survey.

The finding suggests delays in preparation. Smoking will be prohibited in principle on school grounds, effective from July, under the revised Health Promotion Law.

The survey, conducted by Shigeharu Ieda, professor of Chukyo University, covered 782 national, municipal and private universities across Japan. Ieda asked the schools about their efforts to ban smoking and checked their websites for related information.

The results of the survey, launched in 2002, are published about every six months.

According to the latest survey, 197 universities, or 25.2 percent of the total, had implemented blanket smoking bans on all campuses as of March 8, almost double the level of 10 years ago.

In addition, 38 schools, or 4.9 percent, had wholesale smoking bans in place on some campuses.

Under the revised law, enacted in July last year, smoking will be prohibited in principle on the premises of schools, hospitals and administrative office buildings.

According to Ieda, however, some universities have reinstated smoking areas on campus, reversing the blanket bans, after getting complaints from residents about students smoking in areas near the school and litter from cigarette butts, apparently left by students.

Even under the revised law, smoking will be permitted at designated outdoor locations on condition that measures against secondhand smoke are taken, including the installation of clearly marked signage at smoking areas. The provision, however, has been criticized as a loophole in the ban.

“Universities need to make full efforts to carry out measures against passive smoking on their campuses along with anti-smoking education for students,” Ieda said.

Efforts to eradicate secondhand smoke in restaurants and bars have also faced a major setback.

A July amendment in the Health Promotion Law was significantly watered down from the health ministry’s earlier proposal, falling short of a comprehensive smoking ban in such establishments.

The original plan was compromised after facing fierce resistance from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and industry groups. Japan has long been soft on smoking due largely to vested interests and pork-barrel politics, a system that allows the tobacco industry to thrive. Corporate giant Japan Tobacco Inc. is partially owned by the Finance Ministry.