WITH or without smoking zones, there has to be ample enforcement of the smoking ban in all areas gazetted under the law members of the public say.
While some smokers might not welcome the new ruling on the removal of smoking zones in several public areas, those who support the ruling are saying that without proper enforcement smokers will be unfazed and choose to light up as they wish regardless of where they are.
There are also those who see the banning of smoking in more public areas as unnecessary, as it would be more effective to hike the prices of cigarettes to discourage smoking and ensure better public health.
Copywriter Shazrin Ahmad, 27, said, as a long-time smoker, he is curious to see how the government will enforce smoke-free zones.
“I think it’s good that the authorities are drawing the line for us smokers for the sake of public health, but who is going to monitor the public according to this new ruling to make sure everyone follows the rules?
“Are the police going to enforce the rule or health officers? My friends and I have been smoking for years but all this while, I’ve never seen anyone issuing fines for smoking in places that are supposed to be smoke-free,” he told MetroPerak.
The Star recently reported that open-air public-transport stops and air-conditioned food outlets are going to be completely smoke-free. The ruling came into effect on Feb 1 when the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 was put in place.
It was also reported that lighting up is also no longer allowed at camp sites, game courts, playgrounds and public parks.
The only exception is open-air public car parks.
Shazrin said it is high-time the government enforces the ban on smoking in public areas sternly.
“I support it, it’s not a problem for me, but the government shouldn’t be ‘all talk, no action’ about it,” he said.
Likewise, businessman Kamal Zaman, the 29-year-old said he is sceptical of the new ruling on smoke-free areas.
“I thought many people would know by now that smoking is usually not allowed at restaurants, at fields and parks.
“I think the authorities are also unsure themselves. There are already regulations in place, but I don’t see them doing anything about it,” he said.
Kamal, who is a heavy smoker, said he has seen many people taking a puff in public places where smoking is not allowed.
“They can talk about how many areas they want to gazette as smoke-free zones, but as long as there is no enforcement, I think the new regulations will not be effective at all. Everyone will probably continue to light up as usual, with no one to fine them for it,” he said.
On the other hand, personal trainer Olivia Wong, 40, thinks that raising the prices of cigarettes would be a better option than imposing bans unnecessarily.
“If the objective is to discourage smoking, I think it’s better to price the cigarettes higher. If you can’t afford them, then stop smoking.
“After all, if you look at the history of cigarettes, it’s mostly the rich could afford tobacco products,” she said.
Wong said making restaurants smoke-free areas puts restaurant owners in a difficult position when there are smokers who choose to ignore the law.
“The most that restaurant owners can do is to provide them with ashtrays so they don’t litter, but how do you stop smokers, who are paying customers, when they want to take a puff?
“The easiest way around this is for the authorities to raise the prices of cigarettes. Can’t afford it, don’t smoke,” she said.
As a smoker, Wong said she is not against the new ruling for more smoke-free areas, as she believes in the practice of “give and take.”
“It’s fair for public places to be smoke-free, especially those are frequented by families with children, but I think there should still be outdoor smoking areas in air-conditioned restaurants.
“Smokers light up anyway, so providing a designated place would be preferable,” she said.
Meanwhile, producer Siti Aishah Zulkifli Rahman, 29, is unhappy with the ban.
“How can we object? Who will listen? But honestly, compared to increasing number of places where smoking is banned, it’s better to just stop selling cigarettes altogether.
“We can’t smoke in many places, so where can we light up? I think they should offer more alternatives and have designated smoking zones, be it outdoors or in an enclosed smoking space.
“Smokers have needs too. So I think having more designated smoking zones in addition to the smoke-free zones would be a win-win situation,” she said.
Non-smokers are also calling for more enforcement on smoke-free zones.
Civil servant Azman Khairuddin, 43, said it is still common to see people smoking in public areas, especially parks.
“I think they are a nuisance. I go to parks every weekend to exercise, and the smelly cigarette smoke disturbs me a lot as smokers always lurk around toilets to light up.
“Health officers must step up their efforts in enforcing the ban, otherwise it will just be empty talk,” he said.
Model Seri Sophea Sherryza, 25, also echoed Azman’s sentiments, saying that the authorities, be they the local councils, health authorities, or even the police, must come together to enforce the no-smoking ban effectively.
“If they can’t enforce it, at least provide a space for smokers to light up at these areas.
“It is hard for them to quit smoking in the blink of an eye with the ban,” she said, adding that she is empathises with their situation as she used to be a smoker herself.