Cigarettes Australia
A woman smokes a cigarette outside an office building in central Sydney June 27, 2011. Reuters/Daniel Munoz

A Japanese company has started giving its non-smokers extra six days off a year. Piala, a marketing firm based in Tokyo, said the extra vacation time makes up for the cigarette breaks that the workers don’t take because they do not share the same habit as the employees who smoke.

The company said an employee had complained that their colleagues who smoked often worked less because they took smoking breaks throughout the day. It was apparently unfair that smokers spent 15 minutes each for a cigarette break, which meant they spent 40 minutes a day away from their desks. Smokers also had to go down from the office on the 29th floor to a smoking area in the basement.

That gave the firm an idea to introduce a new paid leave allowance in September that would benefit non-smokers.

“We don’t give punishment for smoking,” company spokesman Hirotaka Matsushima was quoted by CNN Money as saying. “Instead, we offer a benefit for not smoking.”

Out of Piala’s 120 employees, 30 have taken the additional days off under the new scheme since it was introduced in September. The system has also encouraged four people to give up the habit.

Employee Shun Shinbaba, one of those who gave up smoking, said that he used to consume a pack of cigarettes every two days. Now that he has additional vacation leaves because of the paid leave allowance, he plans to use his extra time off to play tennis.

“I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion,” Takao Asuka, company CEO, told Kyodo News (via Telegraph). Non-smoking staff were unsurprisingly pleased with their extra six days off.

In Japan, about 1 to 5 adults smoke. The figure is expected to change as the government has been putting effort to impose tougher anti-smoking laws ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.