TEMERLOH: The enforcement of the no-smoking policy in designated areas is limited but the Health Ministry hopes to bolster it by empowering premise owners to reproach smokers.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya said shop owners could also play a part by reminding and rebuking those who smoke in prohibited areas.
“In an effort to protect the public from second-hand smoke, the Health Ministry has expanded smoking prohibited areas to include highway rest and recreation areas (R&R) on Nov 25 last year.
“We will continue the campaign through the shared responsibility approach where stall operators and cleaning workers will be trained to reprimand smokers. It is our wish that public admonishment will give birth to a culture of denormalisation towards smoking,” Dr Hilmi said after launching the designation of R&R areas as a non-smoking zone here recently.
He said an enforcement operation held at 112 R&R areas nationwide on Feb 24 and 25 saw 292 smokers fined to a total sum of RM73,000.
“Up to 16 premise owners were also given warnings for their failure to display no-smoking signs,” said Dr Hilmi.
He also said that a new act was in the process of being drafted to tighten the rules against cigarette sellers.
“Under the available laws, cigarette advertisements are not allowed but premise owners can still display the boxes behind counters. It is still a form of advertising but we are aiming to cover this under the new act,” he said, adding that the ministry was currently holding consultations on the act.
On the proposed “doctors diagnose, pharmacists dispense” system, Dr Hilmi said the consensus of private general practitioners and consumer groups had so far disagreed to the proposal.
He said among the reasons submitted was that the move would cause inconvenience to patients who had to line up twice to see a doctor and get their prescription.
“It is still in the hearing stage though and we are getting feedback from all parties. I hope this does not become an issue because we do understand the matter at hand since the Health Minister and I were general practitioners too,“ he said.
Also present at the event was Pahang Health Department director Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar.