Patrick Harrington is a good friend of mine at Think Twice, a blog dedicated to his English students.
Like me he is a dedicated anti-smoker, although I’m only a repented non-smoker!
As we both live in Shizuoka City, Japan, we hope this will bring a little contribution to the betterment of life and gastronomy!
_To smoke or not to smoke_
It’s a battle of rights: the right to smoke against the right to a smoke-free environment.
In the past the right to smoke has been the undisputed winner.
However for a few decades smoking has been banned on public transport, such as airplanes, trains (except the Shinkansen!) and even buses, and this has spread to subway train systems and cinemas. But these bans were because of fire-risk, ie on safety rather than health grounds.
More recently legislation in Europe and North America has required a full or partial ban on smoking in many more public places, such as restaurants and bars. This has been on health grounds, and the pendulum continues to swing.
I must confess that I do not smoke and the new legislation has made an immense difference to my social life back home. No longer do I think twice about going out, no longer do I become disgusted when a stream of smoke envelops my head, and no longer do I worry about the laundry bill.
Most of all though I am content that I am not putting myself into a higher risk group of developing lung or throat cancer.
Incidentally there is some fledgling research which suggests two knock-on effects of this smoking ban.
Firstly, there has been an increase in traffic accidents as tipsy smokers spill onto the streets for a relaxing smoke.
And, secondly, it is predicted that there will be an increase in the incidence of cancer in children, since many smokers are choosing to enjoy their cigarettes in the comfort of their homes, and the rest you can guess.
Worrying as these may be, these effects remain unsubstantiated.
So how is the battle faring in Japan? As far as restaurants and bars are concerned the right to smoke is still certainly winning. Despite the fact that a few Tokyo wards and some city centres have been designated smoke-free, it is very rare to find a place to eat or drink where
smoking is prohibited.
Many establishments, particularly family restaurants, have separate smoking and non-smoking sections, but these are often two sections of the same room, even sharing the same air-conditioning system, so have limited effect.
Some places have separate rooms, often divided by a glass partition, and these work pretty well for the customers, but the staff still suffer.
And there are some places, especially in Tokyo and the major cities, that have prohibited smoking altogether, the Starbucks chain being one famous example.
But in a provincial city like Shizuoka such places are rare. My sister-in-law opened her own cafe a few years ago, and took the brave decision to go smoke-free. It has probably cost her some business, but it has surely preserved her health.
The tide has turned and the current movement toward smoking bans will inevitably come to Tokyo, and then to Yokohama and the provinces, but it is not a great vote-catcher at present. My personal estimate is that we won’t see a full ban for another generation or so, 2020 is my