PUTRAJAYA, Jan 2 ― Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad today said that a total of 1,453 written warnings have been issued to individuals for disobeying a national smoking ban in eateries that was effectively enforced yesterday.
He said 611 enforcement officers from the ministry were involved in the inspection of 2,786 eateries nationwide.
“The response following the smoking ban is very encouraging and I hope the public takes collective responsibility in ensuring the ban can be enforced effectively even if there is no standing officer to constantly monitor.
“We can see that this time round the movement is good as there is a visible momentum displayed by the public through social media and in reality,” he said during a press conference at the ministry’s headquarters here.
Dzulkefly said the ministry has always respected smokers’ right but advised them to smoke at appropriate places as the government aimed to nurture a civilised culture among Malaysians.
“As I said yesterday the ministry will continue its six-month educational enforcement period to ensure the public is informed of the ban and the dangers of smoking.
“Throughout the period, no punitive action will be taken against offenders and only verbal warnings will be issued,” he said.
Dzulkefly also pointed out that most of the offenders were not aware of the smoking ban regulations, according to officers involved in the operations,
Asked to respond to several disputes that arose between smokers and eatery operators over the ban, Dzulkefly acknowledged them, but reassured that those misunderstandings can be settled amicably.
“There is still time for people to embrace this culture and we have trained our officers to be tactful in their approach to avoid any unwanted incidents.
“I would like to reiterate that there is no issuance of compound during the first six months,” he said.
Anyone found guilty of the offence of smoking in banned areas can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years under Regulation 11 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.
Premise or vehicle owners and operators who fail to display the smoking ban signage can be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed up to six months under Regulation 12 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.
For the offence of failing to ensure that nobody smokes and for providing smoking facilities, they can be fined up to RM5,000 or imprisoned up to one year.
A group for smokers’ rights has since filed an application for a judicial review to challenge the ban, seeking a declaration that the ban is unconstitutional as well as an injunction against the ministry from enforcing the smoking ban.