Japan the Latest Region to Enact Regulations

Beginning on July 01, 2019, smokers are no longer allowed to freely smoke inside numerous public buildings throughout Japan. The regulation is measure one, of a two part legislation, that aims to limit indoor smoking, both with traditional cigarettes and heat tobacco products, from all Japanese buildings. Currently, only schools, hospitals, and government buildings are effected, however in April of 2020, restaurants and bars will also have designated smoking and non-smoking areas. Any individual who does not adhere to the regulation will be fined up to $2800USD. Establishments that do not enforce the regulation could be fined up to $4600USD.

This is the first government legislation to be passed that regulates what areas people can smoke indoors. However it seems there is a growing movement towards limiting smoking and e-cigarette use in public environments in Japan. In March of 2019, restaurant chain Skylark, announced that they would be enforcing a ban beginning in September, 2019 in an effort to protect the health of their non-smoking patrons and employees. In 2018, Nagasaki University announced a smoking ban within their campus, but then in April, 2019, took things a step further by stating that they were no longer hiring smokers.

When we originally heard about this and reported on it, we believed that this was a step backwards for harm reduction. We were afraid that by including heated tobacco products in the regulations against smoking that it was conveying to people that Heat-Not-Burn was just as dangerous as traditional cigarettes. We have since learned that Heat-Not-Burn and traditional smoking are being recognized as fundamentally different acts. Even though anyone using a Heat-Not-Burn product does have to go to the Heat-Not-Burn section of a public building, that section will consist only of Heat-Not-Burn users. Traditional cigarette smokers will have to stay in another separate section.

We’re glad to hear that Japan is making this differentiation and we hope to see more countries do so. In some regions around the world this differentiation is not made which raises questions about the relationship between harm reduction and public policy.

At the end of June, 2019 San Francisco banned the sale of all vape products within city limits. On July 03, 2019 the Filipino Department of Health banned the use of e-cigarettes, including HnB, in public spaces. These laws and others are presented by official government offices and agents that claim to be looking out for the public’s health, but most studies suggest that the vapors which come from harm reduction devices are nowhere near as harmful as from traditional cigarettes.

This poses a concern for harm reduction advocates, who argue that by imposing the same bans and regulations on harm reduction devices as what is on traditional smoking, without differentiating them, it spreads the message that harm reduction devices are just as dangerous to people’s health as smoking, which of course is untrue.

We are glad to learn that Japan has taken an extra step to ensure that their regulation does not imply such and we hope that by offering separate spaces for smokers, non-smokers, and harm reduction users that everyone will be able to enjoy themselves in public spaces.

For more information on Japan’s smoking/harm regulations, check out this article and this diagram.

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