The Japanese government failed to toughen a passive smoking ban in its new anticancer program, which was approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday, without support from the ruling party representing industries to be affected by the measure.
A health ministry expert panel suggested in June the program that sets out the country's anticancer policy for the next six years starting in fiscal 2017 will include "zero tolerance" for secondhand smoking at home and restaurants, but the move met with strong opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party.
The existing anticancer program calls for eradication of passive smoking at government buildings and medical facilities by fiscal 2020, when Tokyo will host the Olympics, and lowering the ratio of those exposed to smoke produced by others at home and restaurants to 3 percent and 15 percent, respectively, by the same year.
With some members holding strong ties with tobacco and restaurant industries, the LDP has insisted small eateries and bars should be exempt from the ban. The government initially aimed to gain Cabinet approval for the new anticancer program in summer, but the lack of consent by the ruling party pushed back the schedule.
Separately, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has been in a standoff with the LDP over a bill to strengthen Japan's legislation combating passive smoking.
As they remained apart over what kind of eating and drinking establishments should be designated as exceptions to an indoor smoking ban, the government failed to submit a bill to revise the Heath Promotion Law to the ordinary Diet session that ended in June.
Health minister Katsunobu Kato said the government will try to present the bill to the Diet "as soon as possible to effectively root out unwanted passive smoking." In line with the bill's content, the ministry plans to add numerical targets on smoking control in the anticancer program.
The program was given Cabinet approval Tuesday despite the issue of passive smoking ban being left untouched as the ministry feared further delay could affect the compilation of anticancer measures by local governments.
Estimating that about 15,000 people die annually in Japan from secondhand smoking, the ministry has called for more aggressive preventive steps. Based on the World Health Organization's standard, Japan is among the lowest ranked countries in terms of tobacco control, with no smoke-free law covering all indoor public places.
The new anticancer program also calls for raising the ratio of people undergoing cancer screenings to 50 percent from the current 30 to 40 percent to decrease fatalities through early detection.
It also seeks to increase the ratio of those receiving detailed examination following initial cancer screenings to 90 percent.
The program promotes individualized medicine which enables cancer patients to choose suitable treatments according to their types of genes. It also features guidelines on medical care catered to elderly cancer patients who often suffer from dementia and other diseases.