Kushikatsu Tanaka, a popular nationwide chain of izakaya (Japanese-style pubs), specialising in deep-fried titbits served on skewers, has banned smoking, effective 1 June. Smoking has been banned in its more than 180 outlets nationwide, the Nikkei Business (28 May) reported. The ban extends to smokeless tobacco products, and the outlets will not be providing a smokers’ corner.
As Keiji Nuki, the firm’s president, explained, “We’ve received numerous complaints from customers. While the trend has been to restrict smoking, our thinking has been that it will be necessary to come up with ways to meet customer needs in the future”.
On 9 March, Japan’s Cabinet decided to require businesses and public organisations to deal with secondary smoke; the proposal was submitted to the Diet. Eating and drinking establishments are expected to be the most affected by the new law, which essentially bans indoor smoking and penalises offenders. The government plans full implementation by April 2020, three months before the start of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party with interests in the business sector, however, are trying to weaken the law, by diluting the provisions to exempt small and medium-sized businesses capitalised at less than ¥50 million, or existing restaurants with a customer seating area of less than 100m2—which are said to account for some 55% of the total.
Bars and restaurants are in agreement that banning smoking will cut into their revenues. One operator of a restaurant chain, however, noted that trends have changed over the past several years, and the percentage of smokers is declining. According to a recent survey by Japan Tobacco Inc., 18.2% of Japanese adults (people aged 18 or over) are smokers.
McDonald’s Japan took the initiative to ban smoking completely at some 3,000 of its outlets in 2014, and such chains as Denny’s and KFC Japan are currently said to be in the process of banning smoking. Even among operators of pubs, the perception exists that, as one izakaya president puts it, “If we ban smoking, sales may temporarily drop, but more people will bring their families and the overall result will be positive”. The writer pointed out that staff at the restaurants should find that a smoking ban improves their work environment and, in turn, makes it easier for such establishments to recruit new workers.