By Archana Patrick
The implementation of the recent smoking ban in all Malaysian eateries and restaurants is good news indeed for 27 million of Malaysians who do not smoke as passive smokers are severely exposed to health risks similar to active smokers.
In October 2018, the Ministry of Health announced that smoking in all restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres, including open-air eateries nationwide would be banned starting 2019.
For the time being, State Health Departments across Malaysia are working with local councils to enforce the ban. Nevertheless, for the first six months, Health Ministry officers will not impose fines but take note of repeated offenders as well as issue warning notices to recalcitrant food operators.
The penalty for smokers caught smoking in prohibited areas is a maximum fine of RM10,000 or two years of imprisonment while eateries found to have allowed customers to smoke in their premises will face a maximum fine of RM2,500.
In addition, food operators are required to display a 40cm x 50cm “no-smoking” poster at their premises. Smoking rooms and ashtrays are also not allowed in food eateries.
To date, four eateries in Perlis have been issued with warning notices for failing to display the “No Smoking” signs according to specifications while in Johor 22 warning notices have been issued to premises which failed to comply with the smoking ban that came into effect on New Year’s Day.
However, all is not lost for the large number of smokers in Malaysia, comprising approximately five million of the Malaysian population, as they are still permitted to light up 3 metres away from food outlets.
Although more clarity is required in terms of how the 3 metres will be measured for enforcement purposes, it is vital that efforts are increased on preventive measures on nicotine or tobacco dependency to ensure smokers quit smoking eventually.
This is in line with the Health Ministry’s objective of vigorously conducting anti-smoking campaigns to create greater social and health awareness among Malaysians.
The next step: to extend the smoking ban to laundrettes and hotels!