As 2018 wraps up and we come one year closer to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, government policies and company initiatives to encourage better health are on the rise.
In one such move, the convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan, owned by retail giant Seven & i Holdings Co., announced that they will be removing smoking ashtrays from storefronts of their Tokyo locations, according to the Nihon Keizai Shinbun as reported on Dec. 1.
Since a Tokyo Assembly meeting held last June, there has been increased pressure on the company to reduce secondhand smoking at their stores by removing ashtrays and banning smoking near entrances. Of its 2,700 stores in the city, 1,000 of them have ashtrays outside the front. If the campaign is successful, Seven-Eleven will carry out removal nationwide.
It’s no wonder this is a concern, as according to a recent government survey nearly 40 percent of nonsmokers experience secondhand smoke. While the overall rate of smokers in Japan has declined to less than 20 percent this year, passive smoking accounts for around 15,000 deaths of Japanese citizens annually.
And yet, up until now the only industry making major changes to its smoking policies has been restaurants. However, these changes have been forced on the industry by the government and with strong pushback from pro-tobacco interests and political parties. In accordance to a law passed last April more than 80 percent of restaurants banned smoking, but until Seven-Eleven Japan’s recent announcement, other industries haven’t followed suit.
But now other industries will be looking at the data and considering what is the more profitable way to go. Will banning smoking and removing ashtrays lose more smoking customers, or gain more nonsmoking customers? This is a big question for Seven-Eleven moving forward considering that 96 percent of their stores sell cigarettes, which account for 25% of their total sales.
Reactions to the announcement on Twitter were largely in favor of the idea.
セブン、都内で灰皿撤去へ 加盟店に要請: 日本経済新聞 https://t.co/5NwyfyU5p1
— ぴーじぇい@沖縄病(´・ω・｀) (@pj_berry1111) December 2, 2018
“Please do this nation-wide. Ban indoor smoking,” said @pj_berry1111.
— Yuki (@cocoiyo) December 2, 2018
User @cocoiyo tweeted, “Finally our voices are being heard! This is the power of the people!” The Japan Times reports that many Seven-Eleven customers had made complaints about passive smoking outside of the stores.
However, many people wondered if removing ashtrays from storefronts would just make the situation worse.
「セブン-イレブンが店頭の灰皿撤去へ 都内の加盟店に要請」 https://t.co/5kBIPRl3e4
— Red Sparrow(レッド・スパロー) (@astkhasf) December 2, 2018
“Hmm… even if they get rid of a place to throw them out, people are going to smoke near convenience stores and litter their cigarette butts. This will just cause other problems,” tweeted user @astkhasf.
We can be certain that 7-Eleven and other corporations will be looking closely at the economic results of their ashtray ban in Tokyo. Depending on what happens, we may be seeing similar policies introduced in other locations and possibly other industries as the 2020 Olympics draw near.
What do you think of the policy to ban smoking outside of Seven-Elevens? Do you think it will deter people from smoking? Let us know in the comments!