Japan is one of the more cigarettes-friendly countries in the world; there are no ordinances banning cigs in buildings, and the smoking rate stays high. That said, more and more public places are starting to prohibit cigarettes, so places like train stations very often have gathered smoking places where inhabitants struggle to breathe. As an alternative to these, a new company called Ippuku (“puff”) is opening new public smoking areas around Tokyo that use contactless smart card technology for payments.
Smokers will now pay ¥50 (approximately $0.64) a time with their Suica or Pasmo passes, both of which are common forms of electronic money in Tokyo that use the Sony-developed FeliCa RFID system. The cards can also be used even for public transportation, vending machines, and payments at convenience shops. Ippuku’s pay-as-you-go rooms have subway-stile gates where clients must touch their cards to enter; in an interview with Nikkei Trendy, a company representative declared that the use of smart IC cards will help encourage inhabitants to come to the rooms without feeling lack or having to search around for a coin.
Once inside, the rooms have Wi-Fi, TV, and power exits, and the company seems assure that its new combination of ventilation, aroma sprays, and water-based special processing system for cigarettes butts will create a very comfortable atmosphere. Right now there are three Ippuku special rooms in the Chiyoda-ku area of Tokyo, which has a history of advertising smoking labels — it was actually the first place in Japan to prohibit smoking in the streets a decade ago. Ippuku is thinking outside Chiyoda, however, and the new plan is to open 36 more rooms in the next three years with a focus on business areas.