Japan, which is one of the world's biggest consumers of cigarettes, plans to call for a nationwide ban on lighting up in bars, restaurants and other public places, officials said Monday.

The health ministry plans to send an advisory notice to local governments by the end of February to ask them to follow the country's initiative to fight second-hand smoke, a ministry official said.

At the moment, the central government calls on local authorities to provide separate smoking areas in public facilities such as amusement venues, schools, hospitals and department stores, hotels, train stations and banks.

"Now our ministry plans to upgrade the current separation of smoking areas to a total ban on smoking, which is a global trend," said the official, who declined to be named.

The government notice is not mandatory, the official said, adding that local authorities can decide whether to introduce local legislation so that offenders may be fined.

Smoking is still commonplace in Japanese bars and restaurants, unlike in most other developed countries. But streets, trains and railway platforms are becoming increasingly smoke-free.

Japan's smoking rate fell to 24.9 percent in 2009, the 18th consecutive annual decline, according to Japan Tobacco Inc, but remains high compared with other developed countries.