Tokyo’s smokers – only venues make health advocates angry

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Although Japan has prohibited smoking in the majority of indoor public areas, and even in most streets of the capital, still there is an isle of paradise for Tokyo smokers, called Café Tobacco.

Located in the center of Tokyo and filled with dense white tobacco smoke, ‘Cafe Tobacco’ provides shelter for numerous blue-collar employees from local office centers and other visitors seeking for a drag and a coffee.

“Today people think that smoking person is a villain and should be exorcized from the streets,” complained Masahiko Tonoguchi, a vice president of Towa Food Service Co, owner of Café Tobacco that opened is second café only for smokers in Tokyo last week and plans to launch similar venues in all major Japan cities.

Tokyo Cafe Tobacco

Sitting under an air conditioner, which is constantly working to clean the air from thick smoke, Tonoguchi admitted that they wanted their Café Tobacco to become a refuge for local smokers who usually have nowhere to go to satisfy their need to have a puff.

Outside the Café Tobacco Outside hung a sign showing an amber cigar tip and saying that smoking inside is permitted, what prompted to drawing the attention of more than 500 customers each day, said Café’s manager Akiko Nakanuchi.

Puffing on his cigarette and drinking an ice-tea, Daito Takahashi, a 30-year-old manager, admitted he was delighted to get to know about the Café Tobacco.

“I believe it’s a success,” he exclaimed. “All the bars in this neighborhood prohibit smoking or have a small smoking section, that is always packed with people, eager to have a smoke and coffee break.”

He said that the café is a true refuge for smokers, since only here nobody glares at them accusing of all the sins. So the place has been a oasis for smokers where they can simply relax among other smokers, without any feeling of guiltiness for their unhealthy habit.

However, health groups and anti-smoking advocates are not happy with these smokers-only places.

Kosuke Morigami, a public health expert stated that cigarettes have been proven to be toxic and hazardous for health, so people should simply stop smoking for the sake of their health.

He said that there should not be such smoking-friendly places, but unfortunately, the Health department was not entitled to regulate individual property rights since it violates commercial laws.

The smoking rates in Japan have dropped in the previous years, but, nevertheless they are higher than in many other countries. Smokers account for 40 percent of all male population and 15 percent of women.

In 2002 government prohibited smoking in many public places, including educational facilities, shopping centers and hospitals, however there has been no-enforcement of these laws.

However, Tokyo City Council imposed their own anti-smoking legislation, banning smoking in public transport and even on the majority of streets, excluding specially designated smoking areas.

Japan Tobacco, a leading tobacco company in the country launched several campaigns to support smokers. Their latest campaign included “SmoCar”, a van, equipped with air conditioning system, driving around the city and permitting everybody who wants to have a puff, to stop it and smoke inside.

In 2008, the cigarettes sales in Jappan dropped by five percent, however still managed to generate almost 40 billion dollars.

Although cigarette packs have the same warning labels as in all other countries that signed WHO Tobacco Convention, they are less expensive than in other developed states, costing about 3 dollars per pack.

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