Health Ministry eyes smoke-free universities next

No-smoking signs are seen at an eatery in Putrajaya January 3, 2019. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
No-smoking signs are seen at an eatery in Putrajaya January 3, 2019. ― Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 8 — The Health Ministry announced plans today to expand no-smoking zones in all universities in the country this year, following a similar ban in restaurants.

Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the proposal for both public and private tertiary education institutions comes after smoking was banned in Parliament last year and at eateries, including open-air establishments, since January 1.

“Next, we will look into schools and universities,” Dr Noor Hisham told reporters.

“We’ll look into it this year.”

The DG acknowledged that schools were already no-smoking zones, but said the government wanted to “gazette the area, the front, of all universities”.

Section 11(1)(j) of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 states that smoking is prohibited “in any area of an educational institution or a higher educational institution”.

Dr Noor Hisham explained that the ministry planned to expand the no-smoking areas in varsities and make them more visible.

“Will discuss that later and as for now, focus [is] on eateries,” the DG told Malay Mail when asked how large the radius of the no-smoking zone from universities’ perimeter that the ministry planned to enlarge.

Dr Noor Hisham also said smokers who wanted to kick the habit could go to the ministry’s mQuit stop smoking clinics.

“We advise you how to stop smoking, manage your urge, also we supply some medication,” he said. “The service is free.”

The Ministry of Health launched mQuit in 2016 and has reportedly partnered with more than 88 private health facilities, including pharmacies, to run the stop smoking clinics.

Dr Noor Hisham said today the government was trying to focus on the rights of non-smokers in its ban on smoking in restaurants.

“Eighty per cent of the public are non-smokers. Those who want to smoke can smoke, but a distance away, 10 feet away for example from the restaurant. Otherwise, the restaurant will be full of smoke and passive smokers will be an issue,” he said.