Growing up in America, all I heard was that smoking was bad for you (and it is).

Even from the 1970's there was a current on anti-smoking rhetoric that began to permeate the schools and then society.

By the time I was old enough to legally smoke, you could hardly smoke anywhere, publicly at least.
I remember as a child people being able to smoke on airplanes and in restaurants, but by the time I moved to Japan in 2008, good luck trying to light up in public.
Oh, how different Japan was at that time.

In Japan, and Asia, for that matter, smoking has had a much more relaxed relationship with the general public.
In many countries throughout Asia, you can still smoke wherever you damn well want to.

This was almost the case when I arrived in the land of the rising sun.
When I came to Japan you could smoke in many places that in America would have been way off-limits.
For instance, you could smoke on the train platforms while waiting for a train.
Some restaurants had smoking / no-smoking sections, but the majority of them were smoke-where-you-like.

And the biggest shock was that you could smoke inside of certain department stores.
Not while you were browsing, mind you, but they had a smoker's corner that was fully open (there were vacuum fans that whisk away the smoke)
and had comfortable seating and even drink and snack machines.

Those days are gone.
Around 5 years ago, or so, they did away with smoking while waiting for the train.

There was one line near Tokyo, the Chichibu Line, that allowed smoking at the very, very end of the platform while you were waiting,
up until a year ago, but they've since gone smoke-free.

Restaurants still have smoking / non-smoking sections, but that is slowly dying out.

And there's no shopping experience I can think of in the Tokyo area that will allow you to open air smoke in the shopping area any more.

Some malls do have smoking rooms inside that you can duck into to light up, but they really condense all that smoke inside and you leave smelling very,
very bad. Some McDonald's and Burger King's have smoking rooms as well.

McD's is the kind you just duck into for an after meal smoke; but BK lets you smoke while you eat in there.
It used to be that you could smoke while walking down the street in Japan, or outside of the train station
(since they took away the ability to smoke inside), but even that's going away now.

More often than not you'll see signs on the sidewalk telling you that you can't smoke in that area and will have to pay an immediate fine if caught doing so.

Interestingly enough, none of this is really being done for health reasons.

You won't find much literature or propaganda around Japan telling of the dangers of smoking or of second-hand smoke.

It's all about image. Tokyo is afraid that they'll appear like a backwards nation to the West unless they enact anti-smoking measures,
so they've done what they've done to keep up with the Joneses.