Local Government Ministry to study Japan’s model of smoking zones

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad (third left) and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin (right) during the launch of an anti-smoking campaign in Putrajaya January 3, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad (third left) and Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin (right) during the launch of an anti-smoking campaign in Putrajaya January 3, 2019. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 3 ― Putrajaya will look at how Japan regulates smoking through designated smoking areas in public, minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said today.

The housing and local government minister said her ministry hoped to draw up a standard operating procedure (SOP) in six months, amid complaints from smokers that they had no proper place to light up at following a ban on smoking at all restaurants in the peninsula.

“Let us study the Japan model... God willing, about six months to draw a proper SOP,” Zuraida told Malay Mail.

She also urged local councils to monitor adherence to no-smoking rules during their checks on restaurants.

“Local councils are encouraged to work together with enforcers from MOH to ensure that these prohibitions can be enforced efficiently,” she added, referring to the Ministry of Health.

Many parks, train stations, convenience stores, shopping centres, and hospitals in Japan ― which used to have a strong smoking culture ― reportedly have designated smoking zones right outside that are equipped with ashtrays. Enclosed ones reportedly have air-conditioning and air filters.

International newswire Associated Press reported that Japan approved a national smoking ban inside government facilities last July, but smoking will be allowed at existing small eateries while larger and new restaurants can only permit smoking in designated rooms.

Malaysia’s federal Health Ministry enforced since January 1 a ban on smoking at all restaurants, including open-air establishments, though Sabah and Sarawak have declined to immediately enforce it, citing state autonomy.

Smokers are only allowed to puff three metres away from restaurants, although the Health Ministry has not clarified how the distance is measured or where exactly people can light up outside eateries.

Besides punishing people who smoke in prohibited areas, the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 also prohibit premise or vehicle owners and operators from providing smoking facilities.