Why one Japanese company is offering nonsmokers more paid days off

FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, a man smokes a cigarette in New Orleans.
FILE - In this April 21, 2015 file photo, a man smokes a cigarette in New Orleans. AP

Smoking or nonsmoking?

If you’re an employee at one Japanese company, the answer could determine the length of your next vacation.

Piala Inc., a marketing firm based in Tokyo, introduced this new policy in September: Nonsmoking employees get six more days of paid time off each year than their smoking colleagues, The Telegraph reported this week.

Hirotaka Matsushima, a Piala spokesman, told The Telegraph that the offer is meant to make up for the roughly 15 minutes worth of productivity lost to smoke breaks each day, and came as a response to a complaint left in the company suggestion box.

Many Japanese companies have started implementing a variety of anti-smoking measures, according to Kyodo News. It’s a recent trend designed to cut down on secondhand smoke exposure in light of more evidence regarding the associated health risks.

Matsushima said at least 30 of the company’s 120 employees took extra days off thanks to the perk, and four had quit smoking altogether, The Telegraph reported.

According to the most recent World Health Organization report on the global tobacco epidemic, an estimated 19.1 percent of people aged 15 or older in Japan smoke tobacco daily – 29.6 percent among males. The rates in the U.S. are 15.9 percent overall and 18.0 percent for males.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that the adult smoking rate in the U.S. has declined steadily since the 1960s.

Reward-based incentives to stop smoking can be effective, but a study published in 2015 suggests the best way might be for employers to simply pay their employees to stop smoking. That study, conducted at the Unviersity of Pennsylvania and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that about 90 percent of participants would agree to cessation programs that offered direct financial rewards, The Huffington Post reported.