Japan the Latest Region to Enact Bans

Beginning on July 01, 2019, smokers are no longer allowed to smoke inside numerous public buildings throughout Japan. The ban is measure one, of a two part legislation, that aims to remove 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 become smoke-free environments. Instead, designated smoking areas will be created outside. Any individual who does not adhere to the ban will be fined up to $2800USD. Establishments that do not enforce the ban could be fined up to $4600USD.

While this is the first government legislation to be passed against smoking indoors, several Japanese establishments have already banned smoking on their premises. In March of this year, restaurant chain Skylark, announced that they would be enforcing a ban beginning in September 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.

Japan’s newest legislation is nothing new and has been enacted numerous times before, mainly in Western countries, however the inclusion of heated tobacco products within the ban is concerning and does raise questions about the relationship between harm reduction and public policy.

Traditional smoking has been proven to have negative health affects for the smoker as well as for others who are close enough to inhale the smoke, particularly in buildings where the smoke is concentrated and lingers. Of course the vapor that is created by heated tobacco products and other harm reduction devices will also be concentrated within a general area, but most studies suggest that these vapors are nowhere near as harmful as combustible cigarette smoke. So why are they treated as if they are?

This is becoming a real concern for harm reduction advocates who argue that grouping smoking and harm reduction together in legislation indicates to the general population that harm reduction devices are just as dangerous to people’s health as smoking, which of course is untrue. Even when harm reduction is placed into its own category of legislation, sometimes this same message is spread.

At the end of June, San Francisco banned the sale of all vape products within city limits. Just this morning (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. To anyone unaware of the true purpose of harm reduction, and most importantly, to anyone who has never smoked before, these bans seem justified, but to the individuals who actually use these devices as a means of improving their health, this simply makes it more and more difficult to go about their daily lives.

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