Take a leaf from Japan on anti-smoking measures

The recent announcement by the Health Ministry that it is considering introducing designated smoking areas for eateries in tight locations is commendable and should be put into immediate action.

Allocating spaces for smokers should not be limited to eateries, they should also be available in public areas to shield people from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.

Creating smoking zones prevents young people from being exposed to smoking, potentially curbing the chances of them picking up the habit.

Learning from Japan's successful model, which strictly bans smoking in schools, hospitals and government buildings, Malaysia can adopt similar measures to strengthen adherence to smoking regulations.

In Japan, people under age 20 are prohibited from designated smoking areas. A fine up to 300,000 yen (RM9,437) is imposed on people who smoke outside the designated area. In April 2020, Japan banned indoor smoking, including at hotels, restaurants and offices.

During a recent trip to Tokyo, I noticed that although smoking is prohibited in restaurants, some of them have smoking rooms. People are not allowed to eat and drink there.

There are also smoking rooms exclusively for heated tobacco users, such as Ploom, IQOS and Glo, where patrons can comfortably sit and dine. Access to these areas is restricted to adults and individuals using tobacco products other than heated tobacco are not allowed to enter.

Heated tobacco products have gained popularity in Japan due to their perceived advantages, including minimal secondhand smoke and reduced impact on the health of those near smokers.

To buy tobacco, Japan requires you to have a "tobacco passport" (or "taspo") to verify that you are of legal smoking age. This is an effective method to regulate access to cigarettes, whether sold through vending machines or at convenience stores.

Taspo is only available to those aged 20 and above, thus preventing underage smoking.

The Health Ministry should consider emulating these strategies to combat smoking and vaping and safeguard the public's wellbeing.

Introducing designated smoking areas in Malaysia would be a progressive approach to smoking and vaping regulation.

By learning from successful international models, Malaysia can strengthen efforts for a smoke-free environment and protect the health of citizens.


Setiawangsa, Selangor

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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