Call to give patrons space to light up


COFFEE shop and eatery operators have proposed for designated smoking areas within their business premises instead of a complete smoking ban at all open-air outlets. 

Foochow Coffee Shop Owners Association president Toon Koon Ku said the Health Ministry should accommodate the needs of all people in its proposal.

“We are frustrated with the smoking ban at all open-air eateries effective Jan 1 next year.

“The proposed move by the Health Ministry is extreme as there is no consideration for smokers. Our business will be affected as well.

“There is no win-win solution in the government’s policy in safeguarding the rights of smokers and business owners,” he told a press conference at a restaurant in Pangkor Road, Penang, on Wednesday.

In October, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said smoking in all restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres nationwide will be banned starting next year, even in open-air eateries.

Apart from the existing smoke-free zones in public places and government buildings, the new ruling will encompass all restaurants and eateries, including open-air hawker centres and street stalls.

Toon, who is also the Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association (MSCSPGA) deputy president, said the government should hold discussion with the related parties before making the decision.

He said the proposal by the Health Ministry to penalise food operators for failing to stop someone from smoking in their shops is unfair.

“About 60% of the cigarettes in Malaysia are contraband. Wouldn’t it be more effective to eradicate illicit cigarettes so that smokers will give up the habit?

“Why is the Health Ministry not issuing summons to those smoking illicit cigarettes, but choosing to hold us honest business owners liable for failing to stop someone from smoking in our shops?” he questioned.

He urged the state and federal governments to review the plan and seriously take into consideration the input of coffee shop and eatery operators.

Also at the press conference was Federation of Sundry Goods Merchants Associations of Malaysia assistant secretary general Tan Cheng Eow, who pointed out that cigarettes are not illegal products as the government is imposing cigarette and tobacco taxes.

“It is unfair of the government to collect taxes, but not allow smokers to puff at open-air eateries.

“Smokers are not criminals. They should be given the rights to smoke,” he said, but agreed that second-hand smoking will affect the health and the environment.

“We should respect human rights and allocate a small area for smokers.

“It is inappropriate to ask the smokers to smoke 10 feet away from the restaurant as it might be somebody else’s shop,” Tan said.

Also present were representatives from Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) and the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas), Penang and Province Wellesley Cafe Association and Persatuan Tuan-Tuan Empunya Kedai Kopi dan Kedai Seberang Perai.huff