Japan vows to make 2020 Olympics smoke-free while allowing IQOS, medical vaping

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly wants to make the 2020 Olympics a smoke-free zone by passing a new city ordinance banning smoking in many public venues.   The use of Heat-not-Burn technologies and IQOS systems are exempt from the new policies.  Meanwhile, the issue of legalized vaping is more difficult to clarify for visiting foreign vapers.

Visitors from abroad to the Olympic games may be surprised to learn that Japanese law classifies vaping devices as medical technology.  E-cigarettes and e-liquids are therefore more difficult to purchase legally.  This means that foreign vapers will need to pack accordingly before entering the country.  Vape shops do not appear on every Japanese street corner like in major metropolitan areas of the United States.

Related Article: Is HnB technology giving vaping a bad name?

In fact, the city of Tokyo is so densely populated that even outdoor smoking will be heavily restricted during the 2020 games.  While most kid-friendly establishments like grammar schools and day care centers will face very prohibitive smoking policies both indoors and out, other institutions like colleges and universities will be allowed to offer designated outdoor smoking areas on a limited basis. 

Tokyo officials estimate that the new Tokyo ordinance will affect nearly 84 percent of all bars, nightclubs, and restaurants throughout the city.  A similar nationwide ban that is less restrictive is also underway, potentially implementing a no smoking policy for about 45 percent of the nation’s eateries. 

Japan was one a smokers’ paradise

While smoking in Japan was once very commonplace, combustible tobacco use among the Japanese people is on a steady decline in recent years.  Conversely, the purchasing of vaping, HnB, and IQOS systems has increased by an estimated 500 percent according to data released by the Euromonitor International in 2016.  However, much like in the United States, Japanese lawmakers sometimes face allegations of political corruption through perceived ties to Big Tobacco.

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For example, the world’s third-largest tobacco company - Japan Tobacco – was once a stated-owned monopoly on the nation’s tobacco market.  In fact, the Japanese government still owns a whopping 30 percent of the company, which may be why IOQS systems are exempt from the new smoke-free policies.  Two of the best-selling products of the Japan Tobacco company include Ploom and Ploom TECH systems. 

Furthermore, when Phillips Morris International (PMI) launched its IQOS device in Japan in April 2016, the Big Tobacco company immediately sold over 3 million products within a matter of months.  By March 2017, PMI had nearly sold out of their Japanese inventory due to overwhelming demand.  Even though sales of IQOS and HnB systems are soaring in Japan, the country’s national smoking statistics are on a rapid decline.  And they apparently plan to keep it that way, 202O Olympic Games or not. 

Related Article: Repealing the FDA deeming regulations: Will Phillip Morris IQOS muddy the waters?

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