Ewa Nowogorski 2011/11/13
Having studied the Japanese language and culture for 4 years before coming to Japan, I was prepared for most of the cultural quirks that I would be encountering. However, I was not prepared for one particular aspect that still makes me wonder, how is this acceptable?
That is smoking near infants and small children. It’s impossible to control what happens behind closed doors. But in America, a stranger or even a parent caught smoking near a baby will be highly scrutinized by passing members of the public. Smoking in public areas in America in the first place is a rare occurrence, with heavy penalties and backlash sure to come the smoker’s way.
But smoking near children is a HUGE no-no, and children are particularly susceptible to second-hand smoking and no level of it is safe. It can cause middle ear disease, respiratory and lung problems, and serious cases can even cause sudden infant death syndrome. Children are helpless to the effects and do not have the 1 power to escape the toxic fumes produced by smoking, and so most adults are sensible enough to avoid smoking anywhere near children.
However, this is not the case in Japan. It is a common occurrence for families to bring their infants into smoking establishments knowingly, and even smoke around the children themselves. And the people around will not say a word about it.
Working at a smoking-allowed eating establishment, I have seen this behavior time and time again. It really never ceases to shock me.
When I asked my co-workers what they thought of this problem, most responded,“Well, it’s their choice to smoke near their children. There’s nothing I can do about it.” Such an attitude was equally shocking to me. Japan has been getting better with discouraging smoking, with discouraging smoking, with a law recently being passed to ban indoor smoking at government buildings, schools, and restaurants. The law is aimed at protecting people under 20, people with illnesses and pregnant women from passive smoke due to it having an outsized impact on their health. 2 Hopefully an increased awareness of smoking will help people understand the dangers of second-hand smoking for children and infants.