A common sight outside office buildings in Japan is smokers standing around having a quick puff and various times of the day. This doesn’t exactly boost productivity, considering the time it takes to go outside and then come back inside after a smoke. Other companies have smoking rooms which are not only smelly but bad for the air as well.
Swedish company Smoke Free Systems has the answer. For the past 20 years, it has been improving the environment at workplaces by handling tobacco smoking in a new, better way, eliminating passive smoking. It does this by providing smoking cabins for the office leisure area.
The cabins which can accommodate from four to eight smokers immediately clean the air. Tobacco smoke is cleaned in an effective filter system, especially designed for this purpose. This removes 99.9995% of the particles that are the most harmful for humans to inhale. This is in the same class as clinically clean areas with regard to air quality. The gases are cleaned 100% in Smoke Free Systems’ patented charcoal filter.
The unique fireproof Ash Handling System (AHS) ensures safe disposal of ash and cigarette ends. As well as dealing with the smell it also eliminates any risk of fire. Having undergone rigorous testing, the system is now recommended by the Swedish National Testing and Research Institute. It has even been tested to assess how it would perform in the event of sabotage or arson and even in such extreme circumstances the system has proved to be incredibly safe.
In October, the company in Europe changed its name to QleanAir Scandinavia and the Japan office will follow suit in February. The company has had a presence in Japan for three years. Heading the operation is Canadian Glen Shimizu. After graduating from the University of British Columbia with a degree in commerce, he worked for Itochu for six years in Vancouver and then got a Master’s degree at Waseda University. After that, he joined a Canadian lumber company, then came to Japan 17 years ago. He became president of Smoke Free Systems KK two years ago.
Why is the company changing its name to QleanAir?
For the past 20 years, we focused primarily on smoker protection. Now we have products that are going to be released in the near future that are not related to tobacco. If you can clean tobacco smoke, you can clean the air in any environment. It is a re-focus on the core technology being the delivery of clean air solutions.
What is the image of the company?
We’re not an organization that promotes tobacco. Our policy is to protect non-smokers from the effects of indirect tobacco smoke. Our system does this better and more completely than any other product in the world. We’ve been selling successfully throughout Europe and we are in 11 different nations. We have sold over 5,000 units.
Is Japan the only market you are in outside Europe?
Yes. Lots of countries need our system but Japanese companies are willing to pay for the service.
How do the smoking cabins work?
They use a filtration system different from smoking rooms which are always dirty and smelly. If you walk inside this cabin, take a sniff, there is no tobacco smell. Even after years of use, there are no stains and no smell. This is because the smoke goes directly into the filtration system and when it comes out, the air is cleaner than the actual air in the original office. For the ashtray, a pipe sucks the air into the filters and cleans it.
They are very eco-friendly. Energy consumption is roughly equivalent to about 2,000 yen a month. When a cabin is not being used, it goes into power-saving mode. When somebody walks in, it goes into operational mode.
How many sizes do you have?
We lease three different sizes – for four, six and eight persons. It is basically a three-year contract and we provide full servicing. The rental list prices are 75,000, 98,000 and 128, 000 per month for three sizes. We also sell them if a client wishes. A six-person cabin is 4 million yen.
What is the advantage for companies to have smoking cabins?
You often see employees outside their offices smoking, which is a loss in productivity time. In terms of behavior, if your smoking spot is outdoors, then employees will smoke more and they’ll smoke longer. So in a way, our cabin is a management tool because you can put it right in the office where it will be seen. Employees tend to smoke for less time because they feel their bosses are watching. Most of our clients put the cabins in the casual zone where people get together for coffee, or beside vending machines.
How many clients do you have in Japan?
We are nearing 200 units and our largest customer has 12. Our clients include Nissan, Hitachi, NEC, NTV, TV Tokyo, Royal Park Shiodome Hotel, Tokyo American Club and lots more. We are in the Diet building, as well as the DPJ and LDP headquarters.
How do you market the company?
We started by telemarketing and still do some of it. We explain what we provide and we get a roughly 10% positive response. We also work with the design community, project manager community and real estate agents. Potential clients may come here for a demonstration or they ask to visit companies which already have cabins.
Where do you see potential for growth?
Our target is offices, hotels and public spaces with limited attendees. However, as restaurants go toward non-smoking, there is potential for us. There appears to be a large market for us in the pachinko parlor for both sexes; however, women find it easier to enter a women-only cabin.