Space for smokers sought

KUALA LUMPUR: The Health Ministry is gathering feedback this month on the proposal to set aside 40 per cent of space in non-air-conditioned eateries for smokers, instead of a total ban.

Ministry official Dr Nor Aryana Hassan said the suggestion by the Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors' General Association would be accepted if there was no objection from other associations and consumer groups.

"We will be gauging the response from these groups until end of the month," said Dr Nor Aryana, who heads the ministry's secretariat on the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, of which Malaysia is a signatory.

Yesterday, The Star front-paged a report on the ministry's move to ban smoking at parks and eateries nationwide, even at open-air premises and those without air-conditioning.

In response, the association president Ho Su Mong had proposed to the ministry that it consider allowing the setting aside of a 40% designated smoking area and a two-year grace period before the no-smoking ruling was imposed.

It also called for shops with 10 tables or fewer to be exempted from the ruling.

Dr Nor Aryana said the minister would announce the final decision before gazetting eateries and national parks as smoke-free zones.

"The ministry is also open to feedback online," she added.

Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) secretary-general Datuk Paul Selvaraj said while Malaysia should work towards smoke-free eating places, those insisting on their rights should put on a mask when they smoke.

"Be it a special room for smokers or other forms of segregation, it is acceptable as long as the secondary smoke does not travel to others," he said.

"More importantly, enforcement must be beefed up as people still smoke in air-conditioned areas."

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association president T. Muthusamy said operators should be allowed to designate zones in their premises for non-smokers.

"Some owners have fully banned smoking in their restaurants as they cater to a certain crowd," he added.

The Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has gone a step further by suggesting that the sale of cigarettes be banned in eateries.

Its president S.M. Mohamed Idris said there was no reason for cigarettes to be sold in restaurants or food outlets as they were not food.

"Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals and poisons. It is a killing agent," he said.

"There should be a total ban since people of all ages patronise eateries and stalls," he added.