Japanese company gives extra days off to non-smokers

Piala Inc., a Tokyo marketing firm, started offing six more days of vacation to non-puffing employees in September, saying it would make up for all those smoking breaks taken by their colleagues.

"I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion", he said.

Despite the policy's recent introduction, 30 of the company's 120 employees have already taken advantage.

The company said an employee had complained that their colleagues who smoked often worked less because they took smoking breaks throughout the day.

The initiative has apparently led 4 of the 42 smokers in the company to quit smoking.

But at Piala, which has its headquarters in a Tokyo high-rise, about 35 per cent of employees smoke, and the cigarette breaks have become disruptive.

The novel benefit even has its own name - "Sumokyu" - a combination of the word smoke and the Japanese word for "break".

However, it's unclear whether those results would translate directly to Japan where 21.7 percent of Japanese adults smoke. However, in Japan, smoking is banned at work places and a common smoking room is constructed for employees to smoke only in that common room.

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.

"The time is right for Japan to finally catch up now with the Olympics just around the corner", Douglas Bettcher, WHO's director for prevention of non-communicable disease, said at a news conference earlier this year.

In Japan, while smoking is allowed in restaurants and bars without any designated smoking area, it is banned on the streets.

One of those new non-smokers, Shun Shinbaba, 25, told CNNMoney he used to smoke a pack of cigarettes every two days, and that he plans to use his newfound vacation time to play tennis.

  • Santos West