KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad is unfazed by Malaysians seeking to challenge the government’s smoking ban introduced today through a judicial review.
He expressed confidence that the courts will favour the ministry.
“This is a democratic country and they have the channel and the right to express their dissent with us,” Dzulkelfy told reporters this morning during a visit to restaurants around Bandar Sri Permaisuri in Cheras.
“Having gone through the judicial review, we're ready to face tackle this issue legally. Let's see who is going to ensure the cleanliness of our air space and look after the elderly who can't defend themselves when in public places,” he added.
The smoking ban at all restaurants nationwide begins today, though the Health Ministry will not be enforcing it until July 1.
Yesterday, the protem committee of a group for smokers’ rights filed an application for a judicial review to challenge the ban, naming the Health Ministry of Malaysia as the sole respondent.
According to court documents sighted by Malay Mail, the group is seeking a declaration that the ban is unconstitutional as well as an injunction against the ministry from enforcing the smoking ban.
Dzulkefly reiterated that restaurant operators will be given a six-month grace period to phase out smoking at their premises before action is taken against them.
“We're not here to punish but rather we want Malaysians to take ownership of their own health and well being.
“It's not about forcing laws on them but about us realising this is the way to go moving forward. Even if there's no enforcement officer there to enforce the law, we must take it upon ourselves to make the first move,” he said.
While Dzulkefly and some 30 officers were making their rounds in the area, a van from the ministry was also circling the area and issuing public reminders through its speaker system not to light up in the restaurants.
The minister indicated that this was part of the ministry’s operating procedure for the next six months.
“After these six months, there will be no more excuses. We will be strict and enforce the law,” he stressed.
The minister said over 5,000 health officers with enforcement powers will be deployed to issue compound notices to restaurant owners and individuals who light up in areas where prohibited is strictly prohibited.
Smokers found foul of the rule can be fined up to RM10,000 or face two years jail.
Shop owners who fail to display the no-smoking signs can be fined RM3,000 or six-months imprisonment.
Shop owners who fail to compel their patrons to stop smoking on their premises can also be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed up to one year.