Smoking in Japan
As I have mentioned before, the Japanese are on the whole a considerate people.
Near where I live in Tokyo I recently noticed an sign inviting you to ‘Nelson’s, the local pub’. It reminded me of English pubs called The Lord Nelson. The sign pointed down an alleyway so I went to investigate. Peering through the window it looked nice, the interior indeed rather like a traditional English pub. I was going to go inside and order a pint of best when I noticed something that completely put me off: one of the customers was smoking a cigarette. No thanks. There are plenty of opportunities in Tokyo to drink beer without being poisoned with tobacco fumes.
I have to say I wasn’t just concerned for myself. I had a choice to enter Nelson’s or not. But what about the poor man serving behind the counter? He is forced to breathe second-hand smoke while working there.
Japan is a country where the peaceful co-existence of smokers and normal people (non-smokers) is promoted by Japan Tobacco, the government-supported monopoly manufacturer of cigarettes.
In case any of my readers are getting hot under the collar because I refer to people who don’t smoke as ‘normal’ in relation to those who do, allow me a word of explanation. This is not intended as an attack on smokers in any way. In fact, smokers are only deserving of sympathy.
Smokers, unless they have desisted for at least two or three days, are in a drug-induced state all the time with nicotine. This is unfortunate, but it’s not their fault. They have been duped into becoming nicotine addicts. It should be remembered that the vast majority of smokers smoke at least a few cigarettes – and very often fifteen to twenty or more – every day, and they feel panic arising if they are running out of cigarettes. This is addictive behaviour.
I don’t think smokers and non-smokers can ever peacefully co-exist unless smokers never smoke in public where normal people might get a whiff of the poisonous fumes.
However, at least on the surfce one can discern that an effort is being made to promote a compromise.
Smokers are in many public places in Japan are segregated from normal people. Here is one of them – it looks like the smokers are in a cage:
Then you can often see reminder notices on the pavements (sidewalks), such as the one shown: ‘This is a non-smoking area,’ and underneath it says ‘Let’s stop! Walking while smoking! Discarding cigarette butts!’
And finally, this public ashtray with a friendly exhortation in Japanese and English, provided courtesy of Japan Tobacco International: ‘Disposing of a lit cigarette in a stand ashtray just creates more smoke.’ The sub-text being, it seems, that it’s all right to smoke as long as you do it considerately!
Text and photos © Gabriel Symonds