Photo/IllutrationMembers of the Upper House pass the revised law on secondhand smoke at the chamber’s plenary session on July 18. (Kotaro Ebara)

Japan will host a far from smoke-free Olympics after watered-down revisions to the passive smoking law passed in the Upper House on July 18 let most bars and restaurants off the hook.

The revision of the Health Promotion Law will permit smoking at eating and drinking establishments with a floor space of 100 square meters or less that are run by individuals or small and midsize businesses.

That means only about 45 percent of eating and drinking establishments will be subject to the revised law banning smoking in a range of businesses and workplaces, according to a health ministry estimate.

The exemption is intended as a transitional measure, according to the health ministry, which had said in March 2017 that it planned to limit smoking to bars and alcohol-serving establishments with a floor space of 30 square meters or less.

Some experts criticized the law for what they regard as “ineffective” in regulating secondhand smoke, compared with Tokyo’s ordinance that covers 84 percent of establishments.

But others expect the revised law to have certain effects against secondhand smoke in the long run since it prohibits people under 20 from entering rooms where smoking is allowed and new establishments will be subject to the law regardless of their size.

The revised law is expected to be applied in stages for different types of venues, but the new regulations will be in place across the board in April 2020, in time for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The law covers all facilities and public transportation systems, except for homes and guest rooms in ryokan and hotels.

Smoking will be banned on the premises of all schools, medical institutions and administrative bodies, starting from around summer 2019.

Their employees will be allowed to puff only at sites set up outdoors where exposure to passive smoking is not possible.

At other facilities, lighting cigarettes will be permitted in smoking rooms built inside their buildings in line with the government’s requirements.

Heat-not-burn tobacco, which is fast spreading among smokers, will also become the target of regulations under the revised law, although they are not as strict as those of conventional cigarettes.

Smokers of that type will be permitted to smoke and eat in spaces designated for them.

When a facility violates the law by placing ashtrays in a non-smoking area, the manager of the venue will be penalized with a fine of up to 500,000 yen ($4,464).

Smokers will have to pay a fine of 300,000 yen for smoking in a non-smoking area.