No smoking business consortium launched in Tokyo

Backed by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and the Tokyo Medical Association, the “No Smoking Promotion Business Consortium” was launched on Thursday as the latest effort to bring Japan’s public policies on smoking in line with most other advanced nations.

Japan, which has for decades been described as a “smoker’s paradise” for its lax policies on smoking prevention, and whose Ministry of Finance remains 33 percent-owner of the tobacco giant JT, is nevertheless now beginning to witness the rise of a potent anti-smoking movement.

Smoking is banned in casinos in Australia and Macau, which when first introduced had an impact on revenue.

Haruo Ozaki, chairman of the Tokyo Medical Association, pointed out in his comments that tobacco smoking is the No. 1 cause of death in Japan, taking the lives of nearly 130,000 people in the nation annually.

While at the national level anti-smoking legislation has been weakened by the intervention of some ruling party politicians and the powerful political influence of JT, some local governments are now passing ordinances that are significantly stronger than the national anti-smoking law.

Last year, the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance to Prevent Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke was passed, backed by Governor Koike, which will ban most indoor smoking except in specially-constructed smoking rooms.

The consortium launched on Thursday aims to go further by encouraging business leaders to go 100 percent non-smoking as a measure to protect the health and welfare of their employees.