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A Japanese court ordered a local municipality to pay compensation for health problems caused by secondhand smoke in the workplace — a reported first. Judge Akio Doi of Tokyo District Court ordered Monday the government of Edogawa Ward, one of Tokyo’s 23 wards (districts), to pay Masahiro Kawamura 50,000 yen (US$460), court spokesman Hideaki Wada said. He refused to provide further details. NHK public broadcaster reported it was the first time a Japanese court awarded damages in a passive smoking lawsuit. Kawamura began working for the Edogawa municipal government in April 1995. He pushed his employer to designate separate smoking areas after presenting a medical diagnosis backing his health complaints, but his requests were ignored, according to details of the lawsuit posted on an anti-smoking Web site he heads. Doi ruled Edogawa’s government didn’t do enough to protect the man’s health from the effects of secondhand smoke after he complained of headaches and respiratory problems, public broadcaster NHK said. “It’s not just a matter of the ruling,” Kawamura told NHK. “I hope they do more to address health concerns.” Japan has one of the highest smoking rates in the industrialized world with nearly one in three people claiming to be a smoker. Restrictions on lighting up have not been widespread, although some local governments have recently banned smoking in buildings or on streets. Edogawa Ward has since taken measures to implement separate smoking areas or ban smoking in communal areas at its city office, a spokesman said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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