Tokyo, Japan - smokers find haven on smoke-free streets..

Click to enlarge; photo by: Julian Ryall..

December 30, 2009 - Increasingly unwelcome on the streets of Tokyo and in a growing number of cafes and restaurants throughout the city, smokers have a haven for their habit. The brainchild of Towa Food Service, which also operates a chain of conventional coffee shops, the first Cafe Tobacco opened in April close to JR Shimbashi Station - a hub for salarymen on their way to work or home at the end of the evening.

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Japan lags behind other countries in terms of legislation on tobacco. The only laws to have been passed at the national level to try to combat smoking involve making the health warnings on packets more prominent, while schools, hospitals, large stores and public facilities are meant to protect people from second-hand smoke, although there are no punishments for those that do not.

Nevertheless, the smoking rate in Japan is declining. A study released in November by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare showed that the smoking rate among men has fallen to 36.8 percent - the lowest level since such surveys were started in 1986 - while the figure for women came to 9.1 percent, below the 10 percent threshold for the first time since 2001. (August 14, 2009 - Japan Tobacco, Inc, annual survey finds 24.9% adults smoke..)

Overall, the smoking rate stood at 21.8 percent, down sharply from 27.7 percent just five years ago.

Reference: Smokers find haven on Tokyo's smoke-free streets,, 12/23/2009.