TOKYO -- Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward began levying a 2,000 yen fine Friday on people who smoke or discard cigarette butts on designated streets under a new antismoking ordinance.
As of noon, 13 smokers were ordered to pay the fine, with two paying in cash on the spot. Patrollers also issued warnings to 26 other offenders who said they did not know of the new ordinance, the ward office said.
Offenders showed various reactions; some gave patrollers wry smiles but others seemed to be upset with the new measure. Some offenders refused to take the patrollers' fine ticket, but no serious trouble was reported.
A young woman stopped for smoking on a designated street near the Japan Railways (JR) Kanda Station, told the patrollers, "Will you take responsibility if I am late for work? All I have to do is pay money, right?" She then threw three 10,000 yen bills on the street and walked away.
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The patrollers caught up with her and returned the money, but she refused to accept the notification for her to pay the fine into a designated bank account.
Another man who was approached for smoking on a street in the Kudan district said, "I knew it would start today, but I thought this area was OK." The man paid 2,000 yen, adding "I was unfortunate."
Near JR Akihabara Station, patrollers approached a man throwing a cigarette butt on the street. He begged them not to levy the fine on him, but was told the law must be applied impartially.
The ordinance took effect Oct 1 and ward officials began patrolling eight designated areas near Kanda and Akihabara stations, among other places.
But during the first month, the ward office issued only warnings to offenders, imposing no fines.
It is Japan's first no-smoking ordinance with a penalty.
On Friday, a management level official accompanied each six-person patrol team to try to prevent trouble over the enforcement of fines on the first day, ward officials said.
Patrollers are trained to show their identification cards, explain violations to offenders and politely ask them whether they were aware smoking is banned on the designated streets, the officials said.
In principle, offenders are supposed to pay their fines into a bank account, to prevent people from imitating patrollers, charging fines and pocketing the money.
The officials said that thanks to the ordinance, the number of people smoking on the street is decreasing. But as the fine is nonbinding, unlike the Penal Code, offenders who say they do not know of the ordinance do not have to pay it, the officials said.
The ward office is also considering expanding the no-smoking area, which currently accounts for about 30% of the ward, as most people seem to support the new measure, the officials said. (Kyodo News)
Street smokers fined Y2,000 in central Tokyo
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