To enforce or not to enforce a comprehensive indoor smoking ban is the question facing Japan as it prepares to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In response to an agreement between the International Olympic Committee and the World Health Organization to organize the games in a smoke-free environment, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry prepared a bill proposing a comprehensive indoor smoking ban in public places, including bars and restaurants. The bill’s submission to the Diet, however, was deferred due to strong opposition from die-hard, pro-smoker groups within the ruling Liberal-Democratic Party.

The risks of smoking are well known. The WHO reports that smoking kills more than 7 million people worldwide each year. What makes the matter worse is that this number includes nearly one million victims of secondhand or passive smoking, in which non-smokers, including pregnant women and children, are exposed to smoke at restaurants, offices and other public places, as well as in their homes. WHO points out that there are more than 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, of which at least 250 are known to be harmful and more than 50 are known to cause cancer, and that the link between secondhand smoking and certain health problems, such as respiratory infections, heart disease, lung cancer and asthma, have been established.

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