It's doubtful that the health ministry's latest plan to protect people from the hazards of secondhand smoke will have its intended effect. The plan — which will form the basis of a bill the government intends to propose as early as March — takes a big step back from the ministry's original initiative to ban indoor smoking in all public spaces.
The apparent concession to the tobacco lobby within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party is likely intended to get the measure implemented in time for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. But the ministry should reconsider whether the planned steps will indeed have any meaningful impact against secondhand smoking, which is estimated to cause 15,000 deaths each year.
A 2005 World Health Organization framework convention on tobacco regulations, in which some 180 nations, including Japan, took part, calls for prohibiting indoor smoking in public spaces such as hospitals, schools, government buildings, workplaces, restaurants and bars, and public transportation. As of last year, 55 countries had introduced a total ban on indoor smoking in such places, but Japan has so far lacked any such regulation.