Very soon, you would no longer see ashtray in the middle of the dining table at any restaurants as the Ministry of Health had proposed to ban smoking at open-air restaurants.
The Star reported yesterday (Sept 6) that Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye spoke on the behalf of his ministry that they were considering to gazette all al fresco restaurants as no-smoking zones under the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 at the Dewan Negara on Wednesday (Sept 5).
“The gazettement of the new smoke-free zones under the Control of Tobacco Product Act is to protect the public, especially non-smokers, from the dangers of second-hand smoke,” Dr Lee said.
“This gazettement is Malaysia’s commitment as a member state to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and adheres to the guidelines under Article 8 of the World Health Organisation (WHO),” said Dr Lee.
The deputy minister said those caught puffing at the restaurants could be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years, Malay Mail reported. When elaborating, he added that there are currently 23 areas designated smoke-free under the regulation, which includes entertainment centres, parks, hospitals, theatres, elevators, public toilets, air-conditioned eateries, public vehicles, airports, government premises and any area used for the purpose of assembly.
Speaking to The Star, the Gopeng MP said the gazettement wasn’t only an effort to discourage smoking habits in Malaysia, it was also a move to protect non-smokers from second-hand smoking.
He said, “During our engagement with industrial peers, coffee shop and restaurant owners, there were some reservations, but the general public is open and accepting of the plan.
“Smokers will say they have the right to smoke, but non-smokers also have the right to smoke-free areas.”
Dr Lee also said the ministry was thinking to shut down the smoking room in the Parliament building next month if there was no objection. He hoped this would become an opportunity for his fellow MPs to quit smoking.
He added that there would be enforcement once the law was legislated.
This sure is puzzling. Many smokers deliberately choose open-air restaurants to dine so that they could enjoy both food and cigarettes. Especially in the “mamak culture,” where Malaysians would spend hours to smoke, chat with friends as they sip on some Teh O’ Ais. Some outlets even have shisha stalls.
Some smokers were not happy with the news and lashed out in the comment sections on social media. For example, this netizen said some restaurants are equipped with an air-conditional area and a smoking area yet non-smokers opt to sit outside and complain when someone smokes.