Japan must catch up with the rest of the world to protect the health of its people. We are appalled to read the recent decision by policymakers in the Nov. 17 story “After LDP resistance, health ministry waters down planned smoking rules at eateries and bars.”
Japan is the only OECD country that does not protect its people from exposure to secondhand smoke from cigarettes. It appears Japanese policymakers have forgotten their national and international obligations to protect the public from tobacco smoke. In June 2004, the Japanese government ratified the international public health treaty, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, agreeing to make all its public places 100 percent smoke-free by June 2009. Thirteen years later, policymakers are still choosing to favor commercial profits of Japan Tobacco Inc. at the expense of protecting public health.
It is rather pitiful to see the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry being pushed back on the smoke-free policy, making Japan appear weak in the eyes of the international community.
In 2020 when the world converges in Tokyo as it hosts the Summer Olympics, international visitors will expect to eat in smoke-free restaurants and enjoy smoke-free public places. The Olympic Games have been smoke-free since 1986. Japan has to ensure it complies with international standards and the requirements of the International Olympic Committee.
It is time Japan started fulfilling its obligations and protecting its people from tobacco smoke. We call on the government of Japan to make restaurants and bars 100 percent smoke-free.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.