Starting in April non-smoking diners will finally be able to enjoy eating at most eateries in Tokyo, including izakaya pub restaurants, without being affected by tobacco smoke.
Aiming for a 100% smoke-free Tokyo 2020, the national government’s Revised Health Promotion Act and Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance to Prevent Exposure to Second-Hand Smoke comes into full effect on April 1, 2020. People will now be barred from lighting up at most restaurants and cafes in Tokyo, except in separate smoking rooms.
Enacted in 2018, with a few exceptions, the revised national law and the Tokyo ordinance prohibits all indoor smoking outside of designated places. Aimed at reducing the health risks posed by second-hand smoke, the new rules became partially effective in 2019 by banning indoor smoking at hospitals, government buildings, schools and childcare facilities.
The move comes as part of the preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, which are required to be a 100% smoke-free event. Organisers say smoking, including e-cigarettes, will be prohibited at all venues with no designated smoking areas to be provided.
There are differences, however, between the national law and the Tokyo ordinance. The national law exempts existing eateries with an initial capital of up to JPY50 million and customer seating areas of up to 100 square metres from the ban. Japan’s Health Ministry says that 55 percent of dining establishments in the country are not subject to the ban, meaning it only covers 45 percent of eateries nationwide. Meanwhile, the Tokyo ordinance prohibits smoking in eating establishments with one or more hired employees. The Tokyo government says about 84 percent of eateries in the capital are subject to the ban. Bars and pubs of which the main purpose is to provide a place for smoking, such as cigar bars, are not subjected to the nationwide law and the Tokyo ordinance.
Up until recently, many restaurants and cafés in Japan had divided customer-seating areas into smoking and non-smoking sections. Non-smoking sections tended be open spaced, however, with non-smoking diners rarely being able to avoid being affected by second-hand smoke. Responding to customer requests and complaints, family-restaurant chain Saizeriya banned smoking in all its venues in June of 2019. Nationwide coffee chains such as Doutor, Komeda’s Coffee, and Veloce, have recently redesigned their cafes to be either completely smoke-free or to feature a designated smoking room.
The new rules are also influencing izakaya restaurants, traditional havens for Japanese businessmen to smoke and drink after work. Major izakaya operator Watami says its basic policy is to make all of its restaurants smoke-free while installing smoking booths for smokers. The laws regarding smoking outdoors even extend to smoking on the street, with outdoor smoking on public roads outlawed by local government ordinances.
For those wishing to still light up, paying attention to an eatery's new signage is a must. There are four signs, 1) No smoking: 100% smoke-free with no smoking rooms; 2) Designated smoking room: Smoking is allowed in a smoking room; 3) Designated heated-tobacco smoking: Only heated tobacco is permitted in the smoking room. 4) Smoking area: The restaurants are not subject to the ban, and smoking is allowed.