Vacation Time For Not Smoking?

By Victoria Kim 11/02/17

One CEO is taking a positive approach to get his employees to kick the habit.

a happy woman snapping a cigarette in half

A Japanese marketing firm decided to give its non-smoking employees a small bonus—six extra days of paid time off—to make up for time lost to cigarette breaks.

“One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems,” explained Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the company, Piala Inc. “Our CEO saw the comment and agreed, so we are giving non-smokers extra time off to compensate.”

So far, four Piala employees have quit smoking since the policy began in September, says Matsushima, who has already taken advantage of the extra vacation days; he went to a hot spring with his family for a few days, he tells the Telegraph.

“I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion,” says Piala CEO Takao Asuka.

According to the World Health Organization, 21.7% of Japanese adults smoke. Back in the 1960s, smoking rates among adult Japanese men were as high as 80%, which NPR notes was “twice as high as the rate during America’s smoking heyday.”

Japan’s smoking culture has deep roots; the government owns a 33% stake in Japan Tobacco, a cigarette manufacturing company, and is among the lowest-ranked governments in terms of tobacco control. 

According to Japan Times, the government has relied on sales of tobacco products since 1904, when it gave itself a monopoly over tobacco production and sales to “cope with mounting fiscal deficits” and to fund wars. 

By the end of World War II, the tax revenue generated from tobacco sales accounted for “as much as 20% of the government’s total revenue.”

To this day, Japan Tobacco remains a “major contributor to state coffers,” providing 2 trillion yen in tax revenue for the government each year.

Given the Japanese government’s stake in sales of tobacco products, Japan Times notes that the government has no choice but to encourage smoking. This is likely a major reason why a proposal to enact a public smoking ban ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, brought forth by health officials, has stalled.

According to Kyodo News, about 15,000 people die every year in Japan from secondhand smoke.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr