A law banning indoor smoking took full effect across Japan as of April 2020. The revised health promotion law stated that as a general rule, it bans smoking at restaurants, hotels, and offices, and the offenders will be facing penalties. This article will go through the smoking rules and etiquette in Japan, so read on if you are keen on knowing the details.
In April 2020, new smoking law went effective where it bans indoor smoking in restaurants, hotels, and offices. However, smoking indoors in cigar bars, private homes, and hotels (smoking room) exempt from this ban. Smoking is solemnly prohibited except for designated areas. A bit confusing here, but there are 2 different smoking rooms at a restaurant; designated smoking room and desingated heated tobacco smoking room.
The designated smoking room allows smoking and entry for those over 20 only but no eating and drinking while smoking. On the other, designated heated tobacco smoking room allows entry for those over 20 like the other room but can smoke heated tobacco only and no rolled tobacco. Unlike the other, eating and drinking in the room while smoking is permitted. In this room, smoking other than using heated tobacco is strictly banned. As another general rule for smoking indoors, smoking on trains, buses and, airplanes are prohibited but usually on the long distance train like the shinkansen(bullet trains), some of them might have a smoking room where smokers can take a break there. Look out for the specific poster with which of these smoking rooms are available at each location.
New Smoking Signs
The new smoking signs will range from “No Smoking,” “Designated Smoking Room,” “Designated Heated Tobacco Smoking Room,” and “Smoking Area” and its pretty straightforward to find out where and which type of tobacco products are allowed.
Some say the use of heated tobacco such as British American Tobacco's Glo, Philip Morris' IQOS, and Japan Tobacco's Ploom Tech do not produce secondhand smoke and have relatively little health impact on people around the user. Taking in consideration of this factor, since April 2020, a new rule went effective. This new rule states that if there is a sign saying "designated heated tobacco smoking room", guest over 20 may enter and can smoke heated tobacco while eating and drinking there. As the sign cleary states, smoking rolled tobacco or anyting other than using heated tobacco is strictly banned. However, these rules may be different depending on the shop and restaurant so before smoking, it is recommended to ask the staff just in case.
Look out for this new sign that permits smoking heated tobacco while drinking and eating in the restaurant is allowed (no rolled tobacco)
Smoking on the streets and on the platform of most major railway stations except on the designated areas are strictly prohibited. However, it all depends on the area of Japan and the municipality, but you’ll likely notice some signs on the road or above the eye level on the street signs whether smoking outdoors is allowed or not. But its best advised to look out for designated smoking areas such as a glassed-in areas or just an area with a smoking symbol and smoke there to avoid any penalties and fines.
※It all depends on the area and municipality, but, smoking heated tabaccos outdoors on the non designated areas are prohibited too. Anything related to "smoking" must be done on the areas specified.
Public outdoor smoking area
Look down to see some non-smoking signs on the road to find out if smoking outside in the public is allowed or not.
Legal Smoking Age
Smoking and buying tobacco is illegal in Japan under the age of 20.Just like when buying alcohol, shops may ask for an identification to verify your age. Although cigarette can be purchased 24/7 at a variety of locations including vending machines, unfortunately, tourists can not purchase it from there.
Since 2008, to prevent the underage to buy tobacco illegally, all vending machines that sell cigarettes need a special card called "Taspo" to make their purchase. This card is used to verify the age of the buyer, and are only issued to people living in Japan.
Penalties and Fines
First and foremost, those under the age of 20 are strictly prohibited to enter any smoking rooms and also to smoke. Penalties include a fine of up to 300,000yen on people who smoke outside the designated places. And even the facility operators who failed to put up a sign also face a fine up to 500,000 yen.
Buying cigarettes in Japan
There are convenience stores, department stores, tobacco shops, and grocery stores that sell a wide selection of tobacco from domestic and foreign brands. Anyone over 20 can purchase it by showing their ID upon payment. At the cashier counter, you will then be asked to confirm that you are of age to make the purchase by pushing a button on the register screen.
Using vending machine to buy cigarette
To prevent the underage from buying cigarette illegally, since 2008 all vending machines that sell cigarettes need a special tobacco card called "Taspo" to make their purchase. This card is used to verify the age of the buyer, and are only issued to people living in Japan. Therefore, visitors will need to find convenience stores, department stores, tobacco shops, or grocery stores to buy cigarette.
As this may be a universal thing, but to those smokers who wish to avoid any penalties and fines they should follow certain rules like no smoking while walking, since it is banned throughout Japan, and carry a portable ashtray as littering used cigarettes are prohibited. While there are certain areas that may still allow to smoke while outside, you still need to take full responsibility for properly disposing of your used cigarettes. If carrying it is too much of a hassle, then go smoke at a designated areas where there is an ashtray.