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This company in Japan is giving extra vacation to employees who don't smoke

Between 19 and 20 percent of Japanese adults are smokers. That's higher than England, where 17 percent of adults smoke. Smoking in Japan is common possibly because stress, as well as the appeal of smoke breaks and hanging out with other smokers, all combine to make some kind of relief a necessity throughout the day.

Smokers and non-smokers occasionally suffer tensions between them. I recall a Seinfeld episode where Kramer took up the banner of smokers' rights, fighting to allow smoking inside Tom's Restaurant, and not cast to the 'smoker's section' outside in the cold.

But at Piala Inc., a marketing firm in Tokyo, Japan, the age-old war between smokers and non-smokers has reached a fever pitch.

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Piala Inc. is located on the 29th floor of an office building in Ebisu, a Tokyo business district dense with restaurants and bars. The problem with being on the 29th floor is that in order to take a smoke break, employees need to head all the way down to the ground floor, go outside and smoke, then return all the way back up. It is estimated that a single smoking trip takes 15 minutes of time.

"One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems", said spokesman Hirotaka Matsushima.

Basically, because smokers got free 15 minute breaks during work, non-smokers at the company began to get upset, and felt that they too were entitled to some additional time off. I'm not sure how much those 15 minute smoke breaks add up to, but I guess if you're smoking heavily all day, it can amount to a full hour somewhat quickly.

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The spokesman went on to say:

"Our CEO saw the comment and agreed, so we are giving non-smokers some extra time off to compensate."

Basically, if you don't smoke at Piala Inc, you end up getting six extra vacation days for a year's worth of work. Those six days are pretty much the difference between a vacation, or a road trip, or just a bit of a buffer zone around the holidays.

Takao Asuka, the CEO of Piala Inc, said: "I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion."

Asuka also said that four employees had given up smoking, for the promise of those six extra days off. Which do you think is better? Constant breaks throughout the work day, or no breaks, but more weekend days? It can depend on your personality, I suppose.

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Out of 120 employees at Piala Inc, 30 have taken extra days off due to the new smoking policy. Even the CEO, Asuka himself, has taken some time off, as he does not smoke. The question is: How will smokers react to the news?

It appears that there was an imbalance in time off, and non-smokers were upset, but now perhaps the smokers are too burdened by company policy, by getting less days off? It could go back and forth forever. The immortal wars over smoking won't end anytime soon.