Japanese company gives non-smokers six days off to compensate for cigarette breaks

The rollout of the new benefit comes as other companies in Japan grapple with how to encourage their own workers to make healthier choices and as the government faces worldwide pressure to crack down on public smoking before the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

According to the company, an employee complained about colleagues who smoked too often, and worked less because of the cigarette breaks they took throughout the day. After a non-smoking employee submitted a complaint about how smoke breaks were affecting productivity, marketing firm Piala Inc. made a change to its paid time off policy.

The frequent cigarette breaks meant many employees were away from their desks upwards of 15 minutes each day, Matsushima added. "Our CEO saw the comment and agreed, so we are giving non-smokers some extra time off to compensate".

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The incentive has encouraged four employees to quit smoking, the report noted.

Globally, smoking carries costs of more than $1 trillion per year, according to a study from the World Health Organization and the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Unsurprisingly, staffers who don't smoke have been pleased with the bonus time.

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Convenience store chain Lawson Inc. introduced an all-day ban on smoking at its head office and all regional offices in June, with an eye toward lowering the ratio of smokers to its entire workforce by around 10 percentage points in fiscal 2018 from 33 percent in fiscal 2016.

The Japanese government is looking at a possible ban on all cigarettes in public areas in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games.

In Japan, while smoking is allowed in restaurants and bars without any designated smoking area, it is banned on the streets. Piala Inc.is trying to encourage employees to quit.

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The organisation, which has approximately 120 employees, launched the benefit to staff in September, and to date it has been taken up by 31 employees. "So we decided it's better to give rewards (to non-smokers) than punish the smokers".

  • Jermaine Castillo