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Smokers in Nagoya are struggling to find a place to smoke in public places amid the coronavirus outbreak, as a smoking area near a key station was shut down to prevent crowds of people.

On April 23, the municipal government temporarily closed an outdoor smoking area in front of Nagoya Station, the gateway to the Tokai region. It is the only smoking place in public space managed by the municipal government.

The area is sealed off with yellow tape and signs indicating it is shut down.

The municipal government had been calling on smokers in the place to distance themselves from each other, but decided to close the area after seeing many people talking with each other while they smoke. Many other large cities are taking similar moves.

People are banned from smoking on the streets in a district around Nagoya Station with a penalty of ¥2,000 for violating the rule, according to the city.

Since commercial complexes with smoking rooms in the district are closed in response to requests from authorities and some convenience stores are removing ashtray receptacles from store premises, smokers are rushing to very few places left for them to smoke.

As the city had been receiving comments from smokers saying they appreciated having a smoking area near Nagoya Station, closing the place “was a difficult decision to make, but we had to do it to prevent infections,” said a Nagoya official in charge.

A company employee in his 50s who had been using the smoking area near the station said he now walks 10 minutes from his office to smoke since there is no smoking space at his workplace.

“Smokers are a minority and now is not the time for us to speak up. I wish I can take this opportunity to quit smoking,” he said as he puffed out a cloud of smoke.

A taxi driver in his 60s who was waiting for a customer in front of Nagoya Station said: “Fewer people use taxis these days and I’ve been spending more time waiting and smoking. I don’t know what to do from now.”

This section features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published May 11.

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