Still lighting up at public spots despite smoking ban

Children playing and catching small fish in a stream at Bukit Kiara Park. — Photos: MIROSHA GENESAN/The Star

It has been two weeks since public parks and other open areas were gazetted by the government as no-smoking zones.

However, a check at five parks in the Klang Valley showed none had put up any notice boards, let alone enforce the law

When contacted, several local councils said they are waiting for a directive from the Health Ministry on the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulation 2017.

The new regulation under the Food Act 1983 took effect on Feb 1. Those discovered breaking the rule could be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years if convicted.

Little awareness

Shah Alam City Council corporate and public relations head Shahrin Ahmad said MBSA was waiting for written notification.

“We will have a clearer picture once the Health Ministry issues a circular on the matter,” he added.

Subang Jaya Municipal Council corporate department deputy director Azfarizal Abdul Rashid said the implementation will be done by district health offices under the Health Ministry.

“We will work closely with the relevant authorities on this,” he added.

A notice board at Taman Tun Dr Ismail without a no smoking sign.
A notice board at Taman Tun Dr Ismail without a no smoking sign.

Under the amended regulation, other areas declared no-smoking zones include pedestrian pathways, playing fields, game courts, playgrounds, campsites as well as state and national parks.

The only exception to the new ruling are open carparks.

While waiting for clear guidelines, smokers says they will continue to puff away until told otherwise.

“If there is a signboard that says ‘No Smoking’, then I will stop smoking. I have been coming here since I was 13 and no one has said anything about not smoking in the park,” said printing worker Gunasilan Muthiah, 56, who was spotted smoking at Taman Jaya.

“It’s not easy to quit smoking, but we will follow the law. If there is a ban on smoking in public areas like parks, the authorities should come up with a solution for us,” he added.

The rationale for the new law is that parks are meant to provide a healthy atmosphere for people of all ages who go there to exercise.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States stated that secondhand smoke is harmful to others, effectively turning them into passive smokers.

Passive smokers are at risk of developing heart disease, lung cancer or stroke. Children who are passive smokers may develop respiratory symptoms or infections, ear infections or even asthma.

“There shouldn’t be any pollution, especially in areas like parks, where people come to get fresh air,” said warehouse manager Rafely Rahmat, 47, who was exercising at TTDI Bukit Kiara Park.

Strict enforcement needed

Although many think the new regulation is a great move by the government, they question whether it will have an impact if not enforced strictly.

TTDI Bukit Kiara Park environmental advisor Nazherr Khan, 60, said he tried telling smokers to follow the law and stop smoking but they ignored him.

“For the law to be effective, you need enforcement officers in uniforms at parks,” he said.

The carpark is the only place people are allowed to smoke in public.
The carpark is the only place people are allowed to smoke in public.

Selva Kumara, 53, agreed with Khan on the need for strict enforcement. He said it would not work if local councils merely put up notice boards.

“Banning smoking is a great idea. It should not only be done in parks, but also expanded to all public areas. Enforcement agencies should constantly carry out spot checks and punish the guilty,” said Selva at Bukit Kiara Park.

“There should be designated areas for smokers and non-smokers, and local authorities should impose a fine on people who smoke in non-smoking areas,” he added.

Retiree Sivaprasagam Kanagaratnam, 65, who goes to the Taman Jaya Park to do yoga, said cigarette smoke irritated his throat and he found it difficult to breathe when there are smokers around.

“I saw several ‘No Smoking’ banners put up near the carpark, but even though there were a few officers around, I didn’t see any of them warning the smokers.

“The authorities need to be serious about this issue, because I have even seen students in uniform smoking in this park,” he added.

Hanisah Tan Abdullah, 55, said she did not see any “No Smoking” signboard at Bukit Kiara Park. She said people should abide by the rule now that it is in force.

“We should all obey the law,” she added.

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