Huffing over Penang's puffing ban in all public places

One of the 30 yellow semi-circle spots designated for smokers in the city.

THE planned smoking ban in all public places in Penang has received mixed views from smokers and non-smokers.

Lorry driver K. Rajan, 59, feels that the authorities should ban the sale of tobacco instead.

He smokes 60 sticks a day and has been smoking since he was 11-years-old.

“I tried to quit but whenever I stopped, the people around me would encourage me to smoke.

“I am a lorry driver and I believe that smoking helps me stay awake during long trips.

“The habit is difficult to kick. As a smoker, I am fine being surrounded by smokers although I know non-smokers would not like it,” he said when met in Little India yesterday.

He was commenting on the announcement by state Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin that Penang aimed to be a smoke-free state within the next five years.

He is, however, open to having special designated areas for smokers.

“If they can get us a place where we can smoke, then I guess it is okay.

Filepic of two smokers lounging on the five-foot way at the corner of Lebuh Bishop and Lebuh Penang in Penang.
Filepic of two smokers lounging on the five-foot way at the corner of Lebuh Bishop and Lebuh Penang in Penang.

“But I still feel they need to completely ban the sale of cigarettes. Only then will the people have no choice but to stop smoking.

“Even when we quit, the temptation is there,” he said.

Rajan said he was once fined in 1991 for disposing of his cigarette ashes near Komtar.

“Since then I have been very careful in disposing of the ashes and cigarette butts,” he said.

A retired construction supervisor who wished to be known only as George said it would be unfair to impose such strict rules on smokers.

“I used to smoke and back then we could smoke anywhere, even in the cinema.

“They can impose the ban in certain areas but not all public places,” he said.

George, 68, said he kicked the habit 30 years ago and has been advising those who smoke of its adverse effect on health.

“I quit because I was short of breath and coughing a lot.

“I’m still comfortable around smokers but I would normally tell them to stop if there are children nearby,” he said.

Housewife Lina Haafiz, 48, said it was a good idea to make Penang a smoke-free state as she was tired of having her children exposed to smokers.

“The ban at public places will prevent those of impressionable age from being exposed to smokers,” she said.

Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) president S.M. Mohamed Idris praised the proposed move by the state and hoped it would lead to a healthier lifestyle and surroundings.

“We hope in the meantime, there will be tighter enforcement as many smokers have realised they do not always get caught.

“A month-long operation targeting the smokers here will instil a bit of fear in them,” he said.

Mohamed Idris said restaurant and hotel operators in the heritage zone should disallow smoking and follow the rules,

He also called for the ban to be extended to e-cigarettes as well.

“Young kids these days even take their e-cigarettes to school. It should be stopped.

“We are willing to speak at schools and help create awareness if needed,” he said.

Since July 4, 2015, all buildings and public spaces within the 259ha heritage site in George Town, except residential premises, were gazetted as no-smoking zones and enforcement began on Jan 1, 2016.

Smokers can be fined a maximum of RM10,000 or jailed up to two years upon conviction.

Yellow semi-circle spots marked with a smoking sign were later introduced for those craving a puff.

About 30 such spots for smokers have been set up in the city, away from public gathering areas.

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