NBC News on the mounting pressure Tokyo faces to do something about its smoking problem prior to the upcoming 2020 games:
The scent of chicken skewers cooking over a charcoal grill mixes with another distinctive odor — cigarette smoke from a handful of white-collar workers unwinding after a busy day at the office.
This scene plays out in small bars across the Japanese capital, where many restaurants and watering holes still allow their customers to smoke.
But lawmakers here are coming under pressure to implement tougher restrictions against passive smoking before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics, with the World Health Organization and the International Olympic Committee leading the calls for broad bans in public spaces.
The health ministry estimates that about 15,000 deaths in the country each year are linked to second-hand smoke. But the habit has proved tough to kick.
Anti-tobacco campaigners have a theory about what’s behind the government’s reluctance to take strong action against smoking. Japan’s finance ministry still holds a one-third stake in the ownership of Japan Tobacco, the country’s biggest seller of cigarettes. That means a portion of the firm’s profits flow into in the government’s coffers.
If there is one complaint about Tokyo at the top of my list it would be this. Smoking is so pervasive here it is almost an afterthought. Some wards have enacted regulations about smoking, but there is no all-out law covering Tokyo Metropolitan.
The small yakitori shops or izakaya’s already smell bad enough because of the smoke from the BBQ or kitchen, but add some cigarette stench on top and you have a recipe for disaster. I hate going home with that sickly scent caked all over my clothes, especially during winter when wearing a jacket.