First with the facts and figures.

  • Japanese remain heavy smokers, consuming an average of 1,800 cigarettes a year, compared to about 1,000 per capita in the United States!!
  • Secondhand smoke kills nearly 7,000 people in Japan every year
  • Revenues from tobacco taxes are forecast to amount to 922 billion yen ($8.9 billion)

smoking butt ban in tokyo

The International Olympic Committee has enforced a policy against tobacco usage and sponsorship since the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. Smoking bans in Tokyo in the past few years have been stricter than in the 90’s, with signs all over cities banning smoking on the street as the one above.

Now reality wise, its a different story with the city far from cities like London where smoking in public is completely prohibited. Walk to any major station n Tokyo and you will see these open spaces like the one in Shibuya, Hachiko Exit where people will be puffing away constantly that you can no longer stand around. If you decide to wait at the Hachiko Exit for your friend, get ready for a smoked waiting experience.

Open smoking space at the Shibuya Station Hachiko Exit

Open space smoking area in Shibuya. Second hand smoke / Passive smoking is still a problem in the city

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Throwing of butts on the road is a common sight despite sign boards across the city as the one above, with areas like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinbashi and Shibuya the major 4 “S” stations fare the worst.

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Signs of “do not throw cigar butts” are all around but compliance is a separate matter altogether. Unfortunately this is a problem which still keeps the city unclean (it is very clean relative to other major cities across the world though)

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The gaps in policy are mostly the Tokyo guidelines which banned smoking “in principle” in public facilities in 2011 but did not specify any penalties.

With 2020 Summer Olympics approaching, Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe has lately been voicing support to make Tokyo smoke free.

He is now looking to restrict smoking before the 2020 Summer Games in the city which is a difficult task given the vested interest the government has in the tobacco industry through shareholding or tax revenues.

smoking butt ban in tokyo

Tokyo Station smoking area

According to Wikipedia page for Japan Tobacco the Government of Japan holds nearly one third 33% stake in Japan Tobacco company. The tall order which Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe faces is pretty clear with this financial connect  between JT and Government of Japan. 

In order to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success, Japan needs a law preventing passive smoking. Using Olympics as an excuse for smoking bans may not cut it, although we wish the governor all the best. A smoke free city could be a welcome change to the Tokyo City…