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Health and wellness

Japanese lawmaker heckles lung cancer patient during testimony on antismoking bill

Legislator says he spoke out of concern that ‘smokers should not be overly discriminated against’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 5:51am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 June, 2018, 9:39am

A Japanese lawmaker said on Thursday he heckled a lung cancer patient during his parliamentary testimony on an antismoking bill because of his “feelings that smokers should not be overly discriminated against”.

Yoichi Anami, a House of Representatives member from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, jeered “Enough already” when Kazuo Hasegawa, who heads a group of lung cancer patients, was speaking to the lower house Committee on Health, Labor and Welfare last Friday, the group said.

“I’d like to offer my sincere apology to people concerned if my jeering has given them unpleasant feelings,” Anami, 48, said in a statement posted on his official website but added that he “murmured” the words out of opposition to unjust treatment of smokers.

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Speaking in the Diet as an unsworn witness, Hasegawa, leader of the Japan Lung Cancer Alliance, said in relation to regulations on outdoor smoking, “I don’t want people to smoke (outdoors) as much as possible. But I also understand smokers’ feeling that it would be hard on them if they have no space to smoke.”

That’s when Anami jeered, according to the patients’ group.

“At first, I couldn’t believe it. I understand (Anami) was heckling me after he did it more than once. I’m so sad,” Hasegawa said.

Shuichi Takatori, who heads the committee, gave Anami a strong warning and decided to send a letter of apology to Hasegawa.

On Tuesday, in advance of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the lower house passed the bill to revise the Health Promotion Law aimed at banning indoor smoking at schools, hospitals and public institutions.

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But the legislation, set to be enacted during the extended Diet session through July 22, is controversial as the government has loosened the requirements on indoor smoking restrictions at small eateries amid opposition from the LDP, whose members have ties to the tobacco and restaurant industries.

A third-term lower house member representing the No. 1 district in Oita Prefecture, Anami serves as adviser to the Joyfull Co family restaurant chain. It has around 800 outlets across Japan, according to its website.

Major restaurant chain operators, including Joyfull, will be subject to the antismoking legislation.