In 1964, Tokyo earned $1 million from official Olympics-branded cigarettes. Now, half a century later, there are plans to restrict smoking before the 2020 Summer Games.

Although the number of smokers may have dropped from 47% in 1965 to 20% this year, with almost 7,000 dying from secondhand smoke each year according to the National Cancer Centre, Governor Yoichi Masuzoe believes that more needs to be done.

Previous host countries have taken various measures to restrict smoking—the UK, which hosted the latest Summer Games, has had a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants since 2007. Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Games, also introduced fines for smoking in places such as eateries.

The reason behind Japan’s slow pace of reducing smoking in places is thought to be the close relation between the tobacco industry and the government. Only recently did international fast food chain McDonald’s close its doors on smoking inside their all of their 3,135 restaurants in Japan, although the plans had been in place for some years.

While many European and Northern American laws prohibit smoking inside dining establishments, Japan’s focus has so far been on outdoor areas to prevent brush-by burns and littering in busy areas. Japan also does not have graphic anti-smoking commercials or packaging rules that are common in other places. (But it does have some amusing, if rare, “good smoking manners” ad campaigns—see below)

A survey in May showed that out of 8,000 indoor workers, 63% support the implementation of a national smoke-free ban before 2020, and 14% felt that a ban would have negative impacts on their business.

Lawmaker Shigefumi Matsuzawa, who managed to clamp down on smoking while serving as governor of Kanagawa prefecture, claims that “in order to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success, Japan needs a law preventing passive smoking.”

—Mona Neuhauss

Main image: Sebra / Shutterstock

Smoke, Tokyo, smoking-ban, 2020, Olympic Games