Living abroad I often find myself comparing the best and worst of my home country with that in Japan. How cool it would be to mix-and-match to create the perfect country precisely customized to my desires. Just as I may visit a friend's house and stare enviously at their newly-remodeled, granite-tiled bathroom; I visited Japan and exclaimed, "No guns! What a great idea!" However, as no country is perfect, there are things Japan could certainly improve upon if only it would sit for a brief lecture courtesy of the good ol' USA. And one area America excels at is anti-smoking legislation.
Japan needs higher taxes on cigarettes.
Japan does levy a tax on cigarettes, but it's not nearly high enough. Other industrialized countries issue much higher taxes and force the tobacco companies to print revolting photos of cancer victims right on the pack.
Nothing drives human behavior like money. Charging people a stiff premium to engage in an unhealthy behavior that annoys others around them is not only a good idea--it' s common sense. It generates tax revenue while promoting a healthier population. And let's not forget the savings on public health insurance. How much of my tax money goes to treating moron smokers suffering from lung cancer? Why does smoker-hating me have to pay for that?
Please grow up, Japan. Tax the hell out of cigarettes and enjoy a healthier population and subsequent lower medical bills. Sadly, Japan is far behind on such legislation since the politicians light up themselves. I guess we just have to wait until they all die off.
Japan needs stricter enforcement of anti-smoking laws.
Even with the small tax on cigarettes, smokers are unfortunately still everywhere. Oh, how I wish lung cancer would work its tragic magic a little more rapidly! While there are smoking "rooms" and smoking "areas," the smoke doesn't know that, and Tokyo's intense population density essentially negates the efficacy of such measures. Even when they're not smoking, the dander on smokers' clothes infects crowded elevators with wreaking putrefaction.
My personal pet peeve; however, is known as "aruki tobacco" (歩きタバコ)--smoking while walking. Nothing could be more rude, especially in a city as crowded as Tokyo. Others have obviously complained as aruki tobacco is "banned" in most all of Tokyo's 23 wards, and signs are posted everywhere imploring smokers to mind their manners and respect other people.
But what does "banned" really mean? I see plenty of smokers each morning ignoring the many signs as they exhale rancid smoke on everyone walking behind them. Occasionally I see the "Aruki Tobacco Patrol" made up of retiree city office volunteers politely enforcing the signs. God bless them. Too bad they're not as ubiquitous as the smoke blown in my face.
Japan really needs to issue fines if they're going to effectively enforce this rule. The many "No Aruki Tobacco" signs should have "10,000 yen fine" added to them. Then police and volunteer enforcers should be granted the right to fine smokers for breaking the law. Similar to how parking, traffic, and jay-walking laws are enforced in the States, walking smokers should be prompted for their IDs, photographed, and given a fine. With today's technology it shouldn't be hard to do, and in fact it would prove to be quite a lucrative undertaking.
What if they refuse to pay? A lien could be placed on their ID/driver's license. An unpaid ticket means they can't renew their ID, and they begin losing certain rights of citizenship--driving, voting, health insurance, unemployment insurance, pension--oh, and that card you need to purchase cigarettes from vending machines. Being such a socialist country, this too shouldn't be hard to accomplish.
Japan needs to ban smoking in more places.
In my home state of California, smoking is banned in virtually every public place--restaurants, bars, dance clubs, and any place Japan usually puts an ashtray. I very rarely see a smoker in California, and when I do it's almost always someone "not from around these parts." We health-conscious Californians naturally give those smoking out-of-towners the evil eye, while assuming they're super-rich to afford them in the first place. Or maybe they bought their cigarettes in Japan.
My central complaint about smoking is that it is both obnoxious and harmful to others in the area. Imagine you're eating lunch in a restaurant, and I'm a few tables away. Half-way into your meal, I start farting continuously. The restaurant is soon filled with the noxious fumes of my half-digested Thai garlic shrimp ass gas. How is my farting any different from a smoker puffing away? It's ironic that Japan with its ultra-polite image can't wean itself from such a rude behavior. Far from polite, Japan is the gassy customer from hell.
Unfortunately, Japan can't refrain from smoking like I can hold my gas. So the logical course of action is to make it illegal. Customers like me don't want to breathe toxic fumes while enjoying a meal, and I'm sure the staff could do without the occupational hazard. So ban the hell out of it, and make the only place smokers can smoke at home alone far from any other organism. For as long as smokers smoke in my vicinity, I'll continue to fart on them.
If it's one thing I've learned in life it's that a significant population doesn't give a crap about manners and being nice to others. As sad as it sounds, Jesus' golden rule seems to have fallen on deaf ears. Most people do care about their own wallets, though. Make it both expensive and inconvenient to engage in rude, harmful behavior and you'll eventually steer the population in a more polite and healthy direction. So as you finish off your 3rd pack of the day, dear Japanese law-maker, I hope you enjoyed my article. Until you heed my advice, know that I'm waiting for you with a fiery large intestine bursting with near-radioactive flatulence.