* Japan set to tighten rules on smoking in public facilities
* Health ministry denies report of facilities smoking ban
* Shares of state-controlled Japan Tobacco dip after report
By Yoko Kubota
TOKYO, March 24 Japan may tighten rules on
smoking in public facilities, a health official said, but he
denied a report that Japan could announce plans to ban smoking in
public facilities as soon as next month.
Public broadcaster NHK said a ban could be announced for
hospitals, government offices and public transport, where smokers
can currently be provided with separate rooms to light up.
Shares in Japan Tobacco (2914.T), the country's largest
cigarette maker and majority owned by the government, sank 3.8
percent after the NHK report before recovering.
"What's for sure is that we are trying to rewrite the
notification on the law to be leaning a little bit more on the
nonsmoking side," said health ministry official Junichiro Mori.
He said the ministry was considering a draft report from a
group of experts that said in principle public areas should in
future be fully nonsmoking.
Currently the law says nonsmokers must be protected from
secondhand smoke -- which allows public facilities the option of
banning smoking or offering a separate smoking area.
Mori said the new rule would likely change the emphasis in a
bid to better protect nonsmokers from cigarette smoke, rather
than ban smoking outright.
"Now it will say: if possible make it nonsmoking, but if not
then have designated smoking areas," he said.
While it is gradually toughening its stance, Japan is much
more liberal towards smoking than many other places, with
countries such as France, Ireland and Italy having banned
lighting up in restaurants and bars. [ID:nLA65112]
Developing countries are also tightening the screws on
smoking, with India banning smoking in public places last year.
Mori played down the likelihood of banning smoking in
restaurants, saying there were negative factors that could make
it more difficult for them to be made nonsmoking.
Japanese bureaucrats face a balancing act as, along with a
health promotion law, it also has the Tobacco Industries Act,
which calls for develrs.com))