Ayase to start fining smokers starting in October

In my last post about bicycle parking, I noted that the enforcers didn’t seem to be making much of an impact on illegal bike parking, except maybe at the margins (I’d be tempted to park there more often if I didn’t have a reliable space at my apt. building).

Another rule in Adachi-ku that’s only effective at the margins is the ban on smoking on the streets. In a reverse of the common American rule, in Japan smokers are often allowed to smoke in designated areas of public buildings but banned from smoking on the street. This makes for some smoky izakaya, but to me it makes sense because Japan’s narrow streets and urban lifestyle mean you are affected more by street smokers than you would be in a big American city.

Unfortunately, the bans tend to be ignored by whoever is insensitive enough to light up. They obviously know it’s against the rules but wear a “screw you” scowl on their faces and no one does anything.

One effort to combat these scowlers has been to enhance enforcement in high-traffic areas by dispatching workers who enforce the rules by collecting small fines on the spot. Adachi-ku has imposed such a ban since October 2006 starting with a 1,000 yen fine in the Kitasenju Station area. Ever since I have been in the area I have seen elderly people (volunteers I presume) asking some very surprised and incredulous smokers to pay 1,000 yen on the spot.

Similar exchanges are expected to come to my neighborhood this October as the fine is set to be expanded to include the Ayase Station area:

From Adachi-ku bicycle parking enforcers

The details of anti-smoking ordinances vary from place to place, but most appear to follow similar guidelines – ban smoking on the street everywhere (except some small smoking areas) but only enforce in areas of major foot traffic such as train stations. Many places such as Tokyo’s Chiyoda-ku post their enforcement stats online. Since beginning its policy in November 2002, Chiyoda-ku has fined a total of 42,230 people. Though I could not find figures on whether these people are actually paying the fines, if everyone has paid they have collected a total of 84.5 million yen, which adds up to something like 11.3 million yen a year.We also don’t know how many people the enforcers tried to stop but couldn’t.

For its part, Adachi-ku claims to have issued 3,498 fines in the Kitasenju area. As noted above, the preferred collection method is to demand payment on the spot. Enforcers are required to show proper ID upon request, and you are allowed to appeal if you don’t think you deserve the fine. However, there appears to be nothing the enforcers can do if you simply ignore them or refuse to take possession of the ticket.

In the initial period of enforcement, Ayase can probably expect a similar reaction that was documented when Kobe expanded its enforcement in 2007 – refusals by people who claim ignorance of the rule, people tossing out cigarettes just before entering the restricted area, and lots of people simply refusing to acknowledge the existence of the enforcers. Seeing the jerks who light up even when they know the smoke bothers everyone is one of my pet peeves, so here’s hoping our friends the elderly enforcers can get the job done.

25 thoughts on “Ayase to start fining smokers starting in October”

  1. In contrast to the bike problem in my area, people really do follow the smoking rules most of the time. I think that these types of regulations are a great idea.

  2. I really don’t care if people smoke outside, but I’d like to see a smoking ban in businesses, like we now have in much of Europe and the US (and even Turkey!)

  3. Right, I guess you could say that the bike parking only works on the margins, while the smoking ban is mostly effective even though there are people on the margins who don’t follow it.

  4. I’d like to see a smoking ban in businesses as well, but I’ve often found myself stuck shoulder to shoulder on a sidewalk in North America while someone in front blows smoke in my face. (this really isn’t fun when it is -25). Rare is the situation in an izakaya when a stranger 1 meter from you ends up making like a smokestack (the ones that I go to anyway) and you just can’t move. There is also the “smoker wall” – a virtual line of scrimmage of smokers blocking the door of just about every type of public building.

  5. Japanese version of the smoker wall = pachinko parlors. Walking by one in the summer guarantees a blast of cold air and cigarette smoke

  6. I think that smoking has been banned to avoid cigarette-butts on the street, not to prevent second hand smoking outside (which does not seem realistic to me). Plus, a lot of smokers carry portable ashtrays nowadays. What do you think?
    This has an effect on your behavior: if you don’t see any butts on the street, you may be incline to: 1/not smoke or 2/clean your butt after you smoked. Same rule applies with bicycle parking.

  7. The smoking ban is included in an ordinance intended for clean streets and does also focus on banning littering of cigarette butts. But I think in a broader sense smoking on the street is annoying because of the secondhand smoke as well and that’s also included in the ordinance language.

  8. I’ve often thought you could write a New York Times article about this, focusing on different conceptions of public and private space, as well as respect for elders, in Japan.

    “‘I like smoking outside,’ says Kenji Nakamura, a 30 year old insurance salesman, ‘but since they have hired those new guards I feel ashamed to disrupt societal order.’

    Kenji, like many Japanese his age, considers himself a ‘haamokaa’, a ‘harmony smoker’….”

  9. “I think that smoking has been banned to avoid cigarette-butts on the street, not to prevent second hand smoking outside (which does not seem realistic to me).”

    In my area, they limit smoking to designated areas. On the ashtrays in those areas, they have a picture of a person smoking with an illustration of how many people walking behind the guy get hit with second hand smoke (the smoke is drawn as a large smoke creature looking thing). All of the signs stress this aspect, not butts, so it seems that is the motive here at least.

  10. Bryce,

    I think the infinite monkey theorem guarantees that the article you speak of will get written at some point, perhaps by some budding kikokushijo macaque.

    But as we know, the article won’t get fact-checked.

  11. I always thought the main motivation behind these street smoking bans was the fear of cigarettes held at one’s side being at a child’s eye height — a variation of the “think of the children!” argument.

    If the government was serious about reducing smoking (not bloody likely, since they hold a 50% share in JT), they’d double or triple the excise tax on tobacco and ban smoking in public places outside of designated zones. I look forward to see if Kanagawa’s soon-to-be-enforced requirement for restaurants/bars/izakaya/nomiya to be either smoke-free or have properly divided smoking/non-smoking sections. I have a feeling that the law will be “relaxed” for a constantly extending period of time…

  12. Joe, M-Bone,

    I wasn’t mentioning or referring to anyone in particular.

    I was harshing on The New York Times and their fact checkers *only*.

  13. “this is no less than 5 veiled mentions of you know what in the last hour”

    Hey, at least 2 of those 5 mentions were mine.

  14. The national government owns 50% of JT, but you’ll note that the nominal shareholder is currently “Minister of Finance.” So while the government has an interest in smoking as a source of financing, this has little directly to do with the local municipalities which end up having to deal with the everyday effects of smoking on society (not to mention the internal affairs ministry which oversees local administration).


  15. Unless I’m with someone, I pretty much always say something to those scowling transgressors: something like “uuuaa, kusei!” or “suuna!” or “chugokujin mitai!” the last seeming to be especially annoying. I suppose one of these days my ass will come up with a kicking, but it has yet to happen after many a-year. Grass-roots activism!

  16. “I suppose one of these days my ass will come up with a kicking…”

    I don’t think I would be too surprised about that. Especially if you actually say that last phrase to somebody who is actually from China by mistake.

  17. Kanagawa prefecture has the highest media profile for efforts to restrict smokers. A recent proposal is to ban smoking on beaches.

  18. “something like “uuuaa, kusei!” or “suuna!” ”

    My wife usually says something like that while I just glare at the guy. Winning combo.

  19. “I don’t think I would be too surprised about that. Especially if you actually say that last phrase to somebody who is actually from China by mistake.”

    Yeah, well, in the off chance that I mistook some smokin’ oyaji for a Japanese when in fact he was a Japanese-speaking Chinese, and he became offended by my comment, I guess I’d apologize. Then I’d point out the no-smoking signs. “Wakaranai no ka?”

  20. Spraying lemon scented chemical air freshener is not illegal. It mixes with the tobacco on intake and makes it taste terrible. They should produce little mini anti smoking ones that we could just carry around and conveniently spray anywhere we are being assaulted by smokers. When passengers get in my brothers car in the U.S. and ask him “do you mind if I smoke?” He looks at them quite seriously and says “do you mind if I fart”? I think anti public smoking campaigns should be likened to passing wind in crowded areas. Only in the case of the smoker the culprit is always visibly obvious and detectable. These are the type of JT smoking manner commercials that should be airing on prime time Japanese T.V. Show a young pretty girl kissing her boyfriend after he just lit up and have her grimace and say something like “did someone fart in your mouth”?

  21. First of all I want to say that I like to smoke. At home in the Netherlands I smoke in the house, here in Japan I smoke outside and carry an ashtray. Luckily many restaurants here have bigger smoking places then non smokers but sometimes they have signs to say not to smoke during lunch or dinner. Next month the prices of cigarettes will go up 20%, maybe that will increase the smoking a little too.

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