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Smoking in Japan in 2024

Tobacco use, cigarette sales, and general smoking prevalence in Japan have been declining rapidly in recent years. In 2019, the total percentage of adults smoking in Japan was only 16.7%. Around 27% of men smoked and there were only around 7% of remaining female smokers. For reference, these are the lowest recorded smoking rate cigarette consumption numbers since smoking percentages were first tracked back in 1965.

Somewhat similar to having tattoos in Japan, there are some cultural differences for smoking that you will want to be aware of if you are planning on visiting Japan and you smoke cigarettes. In this guide, we’ll be breaking down the new laws and regulations that have been passed and where you can legally smoke while out and about.

Let’s get started!

History of Smoking in Japan

Japan still is one of the world’s largest tobacco markets even though much of its population has ceased the habit. Until around 1985, the tobacco industry was run by the government. The Japanese tobacco market is still mostly flourishing today, with much of its production going to other countries around the world, even though thanks to public health measures, Japan tobacco control measures are now higher than ever before.

The Price of Cigarettes

In order to purchase and legally smoke in Japan, you have to be at least 20 years old. The price of a particular brand of cigarettes is the same across all of the different vendors. Back in August 2020, the price of a standard pack of cigarettes was typically between ¥400 and ¥530. Back in October 2020, the price range increased from ¥450 to ¥570 per pack due to a proposed tobacco tax hike on tobacco taxes.

What Are Cigarette Vending Machines?

Cigarette vending machines in Japan

In Japan, cigarettes can be bought in convenience stores, tobacco stores, and cigarette vending machines. In order to purchase a pack of smokes at a vending machine, you will need to use something called a TASPO card, which is a photo ID card that verifies your legal age is older than 20.

Smoking Etiquette in Japan

If you plan to travel to Japan and regularly smoke cigarettes, there are a few rules of etiquette that you will want to remain mindful of to be respectful while there.

Smoking areas in Japan

It’s common courtesy to only smoke in designated smoking areas to help contain second hand smoke. It’s also common for smokers to carry small portable ashtrays to put their finished cigarettes in after smoking them. You may also dispose of your cigarettes in cigarette bins that usually will be included in the smoking areas, but if you are unable to find one, that’s when the portable ashtray would come in handy.

If you don’t yet have a portable ashtray of your own, you can usually purchase one at a convenience store when you go to grab your cigarettes as well.

A Ban on Smoking

Japan has mostly been more strict in the past regarding outdoor smoking in public areas vs. being more lenient regarding indoor smoking rooms. Outdoor smoking on public streets is generally not allowed and many local government laws have been passed banning smoking on busy public streets where a lot of people frequent.

Up until 2019, indoor smoking for private businesses was largely unregulated. The reason for this is that local governments were able to control smoking in public outdoor areas, but weren’t really able to control rules and regulations within private homes and commercial spaces that businesses operated.

In 2018, however, indoor smoking regulations were passed targeting commercial areas in Tokyo to reduce smoking. An amendment was eventually passed in 2018 that banned smoking in public facilities for the first time ever. This ban was slowly rolled out and enforced in 2020 and made it so that smoking was now illegal in public schools, hospitals, offices, etc. except if done in designated smoking areas.

Small bars like Izakaya remained exempt from the new laws that restrict smoking and businesses making under ¥50 million and up to 100m could continue to allow smoking on their premises so long as they put up a sign notifying customers to circumvent smoking rules.

The Indoor Smoking Ban

Schools, childcare facilities, hospitals, government buildings, etc. had mandatory indoor smoking bans enacted. More lenient smoking restrictions were applied to other buildings like workplaces, restaurants, etc. where indoor smoking isn’t allowed but that included designated smoking rooms. These smoking rooms must restrict access to minors and no food or drink is allowed to be served inside them.

The indoor smoking ban doesn’t apply to smoking clubs or restaurants that are grandfathered and smaller than 100m squared in size as long as minors aren’t allowed to enter them.

The Outdoor Smoking Ban

Many wealthier areas of Tokyo like Shinjuku and Shibuya are enacting outdoor smoking laws. Many have added outdoor smoking areas where people are still allowed to light up, however, if you are caught smoking in places outside of these designated areas, it is punishable by a fine.

A designated outdoor smoking area

Chiyoda-ku banned smoking while walking through busy streets in 2022 and was the first local government to approve this.

All the way back in 2007, Kyoto began designating specific city streets as anti-smoking streets and has since then been increasing the number of streets that apply. In 010, the majority of anti-smoking policies that were put into place were said to be to ensure that they reduced the number of people who had to suffer from second-hand smoke.

Summary

If you are planning on traveling to Japan and you smoke, you shouldn’t worry too much. Even though Japan has introduced some more strict regulations regarding cigarettes in recent years to encourage quitting smoking, there are still plenty of designated cigarette smoking areas for you to find and use while visiting. Smoking is still relatively common in Japan, although the number of folks still lighting up has continued to decline just like we’ve also seen in other parts of the world as well.

Also, be sure to check out our guide on the legal drinking age in Japan and drinking laws.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Illegal To Smoke in Public in Japan?

Smoking on the streets and on the platforms of most major railway stations is strictly prohibited. Japan is very strict these days about smoking and has taken measures to greatly reduce the amount of second hand smoke that others have to ensure. That being said, it really depends on the area of Japan that you are in, but you will likely see signs around you letting you know whether smoking outside is allowed where you’re located or not.

It’s always best practice to find a designated smoking area if in doubt though to ensure you don’t end up getting fined.

Can You Smoke Cigarettes on the Street in Japan?

It depends on your location in Japan. Certain areas have banned smoking on almost every public street due to safety and health concerns. For example, in Tokyo, it is forbidden to smoke on just about every single public street. There are signs all around reminding you just to make sure you don’t forget. You will need to find a designated smoking area to be able to light up your cigarette.

Can I Smoke on My Balcony in Japan?

Most apartments in Japan do not allow people to smoke either indoors or on their balconies. This also applies to areas like hallways or entrances to apartments. This is due to the cigarette smoke getting into air vents and recirculating, the smoke staining the walls, etc.

Jonathan Z

Jon is one of the two Jons that runs Kuuki. He's a big fan of Nintendo, cats, and Japanese culture. He dreams of one day living abroad in Japan, but for now will settle for simply writing about it.

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