Japan’s Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry intends to subsidize part of the costs that restaurants, cafes and other eating establishments incur to set up rooms or spaces exclusively for smoking, starting next fiscal year.
The plan aims to encourage business operators who are hesitant to establish separate rooms or spaces due to costs, thus strengthening measures to prevent passive smoking, or nonsmokers inhaling tobacco smoke.
The ministry will appropriate about $50.1 million in its initial budget request for next fiscal year for measures to prevent passive smoking, including subsidies and enlightenment activities. The amount will be about five times larger than in the previous fiscal year.
The planned subsidies will be provided if operators of eating establishments set up rooms with ventilators exclusively for smoking, or modify interiors for the purpose.
The maximum individual subsidy will be about 2 million yen. The government will shoulder half of the costs for construction and other expenses falling within this range.
In addition to eating establishments, the ministry plans to allow retail stores, accommodation facilities and others to apply for the subsidies. The ministry expects to spend about 3 billion yen from its budget for the subsidy scheme.
A scheme to subsidize the installation of rooms or spaces exclusively for smoking in small and midsize companies was introduced in fiscal 2011, as part of measures to prevent passive smoking in workplaces. The ministry plans to expand those qualified to receive subsidies to include operators of eating establishments, allowing them to use the scheme when they set up smoking rooms or spaces for their customers.
The ministry aims to pass a bill to revise the Health Promotion Law, which will include measures to prevent passive smoking, in an extraordinary Diet session to be convened in autumn.
In March this year, the ministry announced a draft plan that aimed to ban in principle smoking in restaurants and other eating establishments, except for inside rooms or in spaces exclusively for smoking.
However, operators of eating establishments voiced opposition, citing fears that the prohibition could drive away customers.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.