KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 21 — The Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association (Fomca) today said the only way to protect non-smokers from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke is for the government to designate smoking areas outdoors.

Its tobacco and smoking control coordinator, Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah, said everyone deserves to breathe smoke-free air where they live, work and play.

“A smoking area in a non-smoking area is an interim and temporary measure so that heavy smokers get relief to treat their addiction towards quitting smoking later.

“No building can have indoor smoking rooms or spaces because the Centre for Disease Control clearly insists that no technology can isolate any room in a building or adjacent space from being contaminated by cigarette smoke from smoking rooms.

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“In 2006 the Surgeon General concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to second-hand smoke.

“Completely eliminating smoking indoors is the only way to protect non-smokers from involuntary exposure to second-hand smoke. Separating smokers from non-smokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate second-hand smoke exposure,” he said in a statement.

Muhammad Sha’ani said any action that weakens tobacco and smoking control measures is considered a disruption to the implementation of public health policies in protecting the lives and health of the population.

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“Can this target be achieved with smoking control measures that are often watered down by serving the actions of the cigarette and vape industry?” he asked.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad mooted the idea of designated areas for smokers last Saturday, adding that ministry officials suggested they be placed near food premises that are located close to each other such as on Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur, a popular dining and tourist spot.

He said these dedicated spaces would consider the needs of both smokers and non-smokers.

Dzulkefly said the initiative is not a step backwards but a proactive measure to ensure a harmonious environment for everyone in the area.

He also said that the proposal is not final and his ministry remains open to receiving views and suggestions from the public, including input gathered through the recent engagement session with premises owners and traders.

The umbrella group for medical professionals, Malaysian Medical Association has declared its support for the proposal, however it must be carefully planned and executed to put public health first rather than that of smokers.