SEATED on a red plastic chair by the roadside in front of a restaurant, an elderly man appeared to be waiting for somebody.
My guess is that the man was trying to attract customers to his restaurant.
It was about 8pm last Sunday and the restaurant located along a row of neighbourhood shops near Pasir Pinji, Ipoh, used to be quite packed with customers but was now empty.
The restaurant next door, where my family go for dinner almost every other Sunday, was also not enjoying brisk business as before.
Restaurant operators are lamenting a drastic drop in business after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was in effect since April 1.
According to a waitress, business in her restaurant has dropped by 50%.
“I used to have no time to talk with you but now I do,” she said after serving us some complimentary desserts.
That was also the first time the restaurant served us complimentary desserts — obviously a public relation exercise.
The waitress said her employer was at his wits end to keep his business afloat.
“It is so quiet during weekdays,” she added.
As such, extending the no smoking zone to open air or non air-conditioned eateries, will be another big blow to businesses.
While I fully support the move to ban smoking in public places from a health point of view, I think the Health Ministry should reconsider the extension of the no smoking zone.
It is bad timing because operators of eateries are still trying to cope with the effects of GST.
On May 9, The Star highlighted the ministry’s plan to ban smoking at parks and food outlets nationwide.
The ban will cover open air premises and those without air-conditioning such as traditional coffeeshops, food courts and open-air stalls.
Yesterday, the Foochow Coffee Shops Owners Federation said its members could suffer up to a 30% drop in business if the smoking ban takes effect.
A further drop in business will trigger problems like unemployment, as operators will have no choice but to downsize their business or close shop.
Like it or not, some smokers just need a smoke from time to time.
Non-smokers may not be able to fully empathise with them.
If a driver needs a smoke badly to keep awake, should he or she be deprived of it?
This question tends to cross my mind whenever I see people smoking at the parking areas in the rest and relax stops along the highway.
My answer is it is better for them to smoke than to lose concentration when driving.
Smokers are here to stay.
Why not provide them with a smoking zone, like a glass cubicle, in the rest and relax stops?
I neither smoke nor encourage smoking but I must say the overzealousness on the part of the authorities in extending the smoking ban will backfire.