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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Smoking ban winning over Tokyo taxi drivers

Staff writer

In the roughly two months since most Tokyo taxis adopted a no-smoking policy, there has been little trouble among passengers, while an increasing number of drivers are thinking of quitting the habit themselves, a recent survey found.

"The biggest fear (among taxi drivers) was that the ban would cause trouble with passengers. . . . But enforcement does not seem to be a problem," Johnson & Johnson K.K. Consumer Co., which conducted the poll, said in a statement released late last month.

The firm distributed questionnaires before and after the ban went into effect on Jan. 7 to the capital's 3,396 taxi drivers. They received valid responses from 1,664.

Asked before the introduction what they didn't like about the ban, 39.8 percent — the biggest bloc — said they worried that problems with passengers would increase. After the introduction, however, this issue remained a concern for only 5.1 percent, the smallest portion.

The survey also showed the ban inspired drivers to quit smoking. Prior to the ban, only 21.6 percent of the drivers who smoked said they wanted to quit. This figure has risen to 35.8 percent since the ban has been in place.

"Most smokers think about giving up at some point. For the taxi drivers, the ban has given them the chance to act (on the decision to quit)," company spokeswoman Mika Itoyama said.

Meanwhile, more drivers approve now than disapprove of the ban, the survey found. The approval rate jumped 8.3 percentage points from before the ban to 38.2 percent, while disapproval fell 14.7 points to 32.2 percent.

At 28 percent, the biggest reason voiced by supporters of the ban was that "cleaning the inside of the cars has become easier." Meanwhile, 39.8 percent of those against the ban complained that they were carrying fewer passengers now.

Although some 95 percent of Tokyo taxis now are nonsmoking, the majority of the country's eateries and bars still allow customers to smoke. There is no law on the books banning smoking in public.

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