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Smoking bans pose problem for Okinawa hotels, restaurants, bars

Date Posted: 2004-04-08

The law is very specific that separate smoking areas are required in public facilities. The reality is that business owners are blatantly ignoring the law, which says that hotels, restaurants and service businesses should have separate rooms for smokers. The law is designed to protect those who don’t smoke.

Prefecture Health Promotion Section research conducted in January and February showed 40-42% of Okinawa hotels and restaurants still do not have separate smoking rooms, even though they’re required by law.

A prefecture official says “it’s the owner’s responsibility to have the separate rooms to provide for the healthy life of everyone.”

The research, which polled some 1,178 hotels, civilian worker facilities and restaurants showed that 34.8% of the businesses say they don’t have enough space to create the rooms required by the law. Another 35% say simply that it would cost too much to build the rooms necessary to comply with the law.

More than 10% say they’re not required to comply with the policy, while two percent say they can’t get their employees to enforce the rules. They say people just smoke everywhere, even in the no smoking areas.

And restaurant owners say “it’s difficult for us to separate tables saying this one is smoking and that table is non-smoking area. The balance is difficult and unbalanced. We don’t have space enough to make empty tables, mainly smoking area tables that will be empty because nobody wants to sit there.?

Another owner complained “even though we do have separate rooms for smoking, it’s impossible to prohibit customers from smoking, even if we tell them. They are very independent.”

The prefecture health section’s response is that owners should “at least try to set up air fresheners, vents or machines. If they can’t, ask customers to go outside to smoke.” The official says if that doesn’t work, owners should simply make the entire place non-smoking. It’s the law.

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