Smoking away your pay check: Japanese workers disciplined for puffing on the job

Smoking kills – your salary!

A smoking area in Japan
A man takes a break at a smoking area in Japan. (Photo: Getty Images)

We've heard people say before that smoking kills. But apparently, lighting up for smoke breaks can hurt someone more than we think!

Three Osaka Prefectural Government workers in Japan got in trouble for smoking on the job after they were caught taking smoke breaks more than they should.

Of the three, the biggest offender was a 61-year-old employee who was found to have lighted up a cigarette for a total of 4,512 times in the past 14 and a half years while he was on the job. That's equivalent to smoking for 355 hours and 19 minutes during business hours.

For his deeds, the man not only got a six-month salary cut but also was also ordered to return 1.44 million yen (around S$15,000) of his wages.

All three offending employees would incur a 10% pay cut for six months, their employer announced.

How were they caught?

In September 2022, the prefectural government’s human resources division received an anonymous tip that the three employees were secretly stashing tobacco.

They were summoned by their supervisor and warned that they may face consequences should they get caught smoking again. However, undeterred by the warning, the three went on to continually smoke and lied about it when interviewed in December 2022.

The Osaka government say it's a violation of public servants' duty of devotion to work under the Local Public Service Act to smoke during work hours.

Japan’s strict policy on smoking

For some time now, Japan is strictly cracking down on smoking, strengthening its tobacco regulations by passing numerous laws aimed at prohibiting smoking in public areas.

In 2018, the Japanese Parliament passed an amendment to the Health Promotion Act that prohibited smoking indoors “in order to protect people who want to avoid second-hand smoke.”

The indoor smoking ban is only the first of the proposed three phases aimed at strictly regulating the use of tobacco, with the Japanese government saying that each phase would be much stricter.

Since its passing, it has already banned smoking indoors at schools, hospitals, and government offices.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and lifestyle writer who focuses on politics, the economy, and pop culture. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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