Smokers lament lack of specifics in newly-enforced smoking ban

A man smokes outside an eatery in Petaling Jaya January 1, 2019. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana
A man smokes outside an eatery in Petaling Jaya January 1, 2019. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

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PETALING JAYA, Jan 2 ― Smokers were shocked, confused and irritated by the smoking ban on eateries which came into force yesterday,  but said they will comply for the sake of public health.

Checks by Malay Mail on several eateries in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya, and Mutiara Damansara found only a few smokers who did not comply with the smoking ban and some of them felt that details about the ban were still lacking.

Technician Badrul Jasmin, 38, said he is concerned that the authorities might come down “too hard” on smokers who are simply trying to adjust to the ban.

“Adjusting our habits and the environment that we are used to requires time. No doubt the vast majority of smokers will comply but there will be those who could refuse to do so,’’ he said when met at a restaurant.

Badrul said he is confident that most smokers will comply with the ban and hoped that the authorities will not end up penalising law-abiding smokers in their effort to punish errant smokers.

Speaking from experience, Badrul, who was once fined RM250 for smoking in a parking lot outside a hypermarket in Terengganu in October, asked that the Ministry of Health clearly state where the permissible smoking areas are.

“If would be bad if smokers are puffing far from eateries according to the regulation only to be fined under another law that dictates he or she cannot smoke in public or open spaces.

“I know many smokers are not keen on the idea as many find the ban confusing but it would be better if the government clearly define where we can or cannot smoke. It would save everyone a lot of grief,’’ he said.

Another concerned smoker S. Dhillan, 29, said he questions the ruling that allows smokers to puff three metres away from restaurants as he felt that the ministry has not explained the ruling in detail.

“Where do we start to count the 3-metre ruling. Is it from the compound of the restaurant or from its front door. Does this mean we cannot smoke outside as well?

“What about outdoor sitting then and most importantly who would clearly define where to start measuring, would it be the ministry or the eatery operator?

“All this might seem trivial but we prefer to have all the information so we can better educate ourselves,’’ he said.

The task of enforcing the new ban would come down to 5,000 environmental health officers as announced by Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad recently.

Another smoker who wished to be known as David, 57, said he agrees with the ban but asked on whether there would be a designated area for smokers and if so how would it be monitored by the authorities.

“The ban is good but who's going to enforce the rules? Moreover, I feel it will be hard to implement as I'm not sure how well the public and shop owners will comply or adhere to the rules,’’ he said.

David explained that people would find it difficult to adjust to the new rule but suggest that the government consider allowing eatery operators to build a special area or lounge for smokers.

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.

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