Smoking ban to be extended

Smoking ban to be extended

KUALA LUMPUR - Smoking will soon be banned at all eateries nationwide, even at open-air premises and those without air-conditioning.

This will include mamak stalls, kopi tiam and food courts, according to a post on the Health Ministry website.

The ministry will also be gazetting all public and national parks, including theme parks, as non-smoking zones.

This will be another blow to smokers who are already prevented from puffing in air-conditioned restaurants, shopping centres and sheltered walkways, as well as in and around rest-stops along the highways.

Coffeshop associations are protesting against the ban, calling for it to be implemented gradually over a two-year period and that affected premises be allowed to have a smoking area in the back or elsewhere.

Restaurant owners also protested, saying they would lose business as soon as the ban is implemented.

They urged the authorities to allow owners to choose whether or not theirs would be smoking or non-smoking eateries.

The Health Ministry said on its website that the ban would be in line with provisions set under the World Health Organisation's Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, to which Malaysia is a signatory.

An estimated 100,000 Malaysians die every year from smoke-related illnesses, according to ministry statistics released earlier.

The Global Adult Tobacco Survey carried out in Malaysia in 2011 showed that 83.5 per cent of the respondents want 100 per cent smoke-free public places, the ministry said.

But it still wants public feedback on whether smokers should be allowed to light up in a special area of an eatery or not be allowed to at all. It also wants to hear public opinion on whether eatery owners should be held responsible if customers flout the ban.

Feedback on having designated smoking zones in all parks is also being sought, according to its post on www.moh.gov.my.

The public has until May 18 to give views via the website.

The Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors' General Association asked that 40 per cent of space at eateries without air-conditioning be set aside for smokers instead of a total ban.

Its president, Ho Su Mong, said the association also wanted a two-year grace period before all restaurants were required to be entirely smoke-free. "Smokers have rights too," he added.

The association also called for smaller shops - those with 10 tables or fewer - to be exempted.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president T. Muthusamy said that if the ban came into effect, business would be affected. "We hope the ministry considers this," he said.

"People can already choose whether or not they want to have their meals at smoking or non-smoking eateries."

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Noorul Hassan Saul Hameed said that there should not be a blanket ban.

Late last year, the ministry gazetted all rest and recreation stops along highways as non-smoking zones. The ban also covers sheltered walkways in the Kuala Lumpur city centre, which span a total of about 23km.

The move is aimed at discouraging smoking among Malaysians.

Offenders can be fined between RM250 (S$92) and RM500.

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