Smoking in Japan

As I have mentioned beforContinue readinge, 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 a small 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 an pint of best when I noticed something which completely put me off: one of the customers was smoking a cigarette. No thank you. There are plenty of opportunities in Tokyo to drink beer without poisoning yourself at the same time.

I have to say I wasn’t just concerned for myself. I had a choice to enter the 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 supplier 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 drugged state all the time. This is unfortunate, but it is not their fault. They have been duped into becoming nicotine addicts (a synonym for smokers). 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, under the present circumstances, there is an effort, on the surface, to promote this compromise.

Smokers are in many public places in Japan segregated from normal people. Here are some of them – it looks like they are in a cage:IMG_0999IMG_0877


Then there is a reminder with the placard on the roadway. It says ‘This is a non-smoking area’, and underneath it says ‘Let’s stop! Walking while smoking! Discarding cigarette butts!


IMG_0995And 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

Gabriel Symonds

Dr Gabriel Symonds is a British doctor living in Japan who is interested in helping smokers quit. He has developed a unique simple method without nicotine, drugs, hypnosis or gimmicks that he has used successfully with hundreds of smokers. Further information can be found at

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