Business / Corporate | Regional voices: Chubu

With surprise backing from workers, Toyota group firm dares to go completely smoke-free

Chunichi Shimbun

Toyoda Gosei Co., part of the Toyota Motor Corp. group, has decided to ban smoking in all its facilities nationwide from January.

While many companies remain reluctant to go completely smoke-free out of fear that employees will leave, the parts maker has concluded it will be better to create a smoke-free environment to help secure nonsmoking employees amid the national labor shortage.

“The smoking ban is an important management strategy in this company and a measure to improve workers’ health,” a Toyoda Gosei executive said.

Under the revised Health Promotion Law, smoking will be banned at all corporate facilities in Japan, including factories, from April except in designated smoking rooms or outdoor smoking areas. Toyoda Gosei, however, is going a step further by getting rid of all smoking rooms and areas.

When it began considering the move, many welcomed it. But others expressed concern employees incapable of breaking the habit might leave.

Since there are relatively more smokers in its factories than its offices, the Aichi Prefecture-based manufacturer asked its 3,455 factory workers, including temporary employees, to take an anonymous survey on what they would do if smoking was completely banned.

According to the results, only 49 of the respondents said they would consider leaving and more than 10 percent of those who smoke said they would try to quit smoking even outside of work.

The company plans to strengthen its support for those who want to kick the habit, including counseling services and greater financial assistance for workers who succeed, to help cover the cost of any clinic visits made during the process.

Toyoda Gosei has been trying to make its offices smoke-free since 2017. Steps have included prohibiting smoking at work except during breaks and overtime hours, and holding seminars and lung testing to increase awareness of the health risks of smoking.

As a result, its ratio of smokers sank from 45.2 percent in 2009 to 32.6 percent in 2018.

Smoking is said to cause poor vision and sleeping disorders, and some research shows smokers are more likely to get involved in occupational accidents. Moreover, an increasing number of lawsuits are being filed against companies for failing to address secondhand smoke in the workplace.

“It is inevitable (for companies) to protect workers’ health so that they will be in good physical condition and can work for years to come,” said company doctor Sara Kato.

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published on Oct. 9.

GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5