A by-law aimed at protecting children from passive smoking — including in private places like their homes — has been enacted in Tokyo. The first prefecture-level measure of its kind calls on people not to smoke inside rooms or vehicles in which children under 18 are present. We still encounter scenes of children exposed to tobacco smoke from adults, including their own parents. Although it carries no penalties, the by-law seeks to protect the health of children on the basis of the Law on Prevention of Child Abuse. It relies on people's voluntary efforts but is nonetheless a meaningful step forward that other local governments should follow.

The by-law was proposed by members of the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly from various parties, not by the metropolitan government bureaucracy. Koki Okamoto, a member of Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First) founded by Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and a lawyer who has handled lawsuits seeking compensation for health damage from secondhand smoke, played a leading role in crafting the by-law. It was endorsed by all parties in the assembly except the Liberal Democratic Party. In that sense, it was a product of the assembly election in July, in which Tomin First, promising in its campaign platform to seek measures against passive smoking, upstaged the LDP as the largest force.

Noting that it is difficult for children to stop secondhand smoking at their own initiative, the by-law calls on Tokyoites to make efforts so that children will not be subjected to passive smoking anywhere. It calls on parents not to smoke in rooms where children are present. Parents are also urged not to let children enter facilities that have no measures to prevent passive smoking or designated smoking sections. The by-law calls on smokers not to indulge inside cars in which children are riding, on streets near parks, plazas, schools and facilities for children's welfare, and similar facilities. It specifically calls on people not to smoke on streets within 7 meters of pediatric clinics or dental clinics for children.