PETALING JAYA: Restaurant owners want a few tables allocated for customers to smoke while anti-smoking groups want even more aggressive measures in reaction to a Health Ministry’s intention to gazette all open-air restaurants as no-smoking areas from December.
Smoking is bad, agreed, said Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub, but restaurant owners could not chase away customers who want to smoke.
“The government should allow restaurant owners to have a few tables allocated for smokers, away from the other tables,” he said.
Ayoob hoped the ministry would consult municipal councils and the public on how the new regulations could be implemented.
More importantly, he urged the government to target illegal cigarettes being sold in the country.
On Wednesday, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye announced the ministry’s intention.
The current Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 prohibits smoking in 21 areas including hospitals, public toilets, lifts, government premises as well as air-conditioned shops and offices.
National Cancer Society of Malaysia PR and communications assistant manager Mandy Thoo said 80% of Malaysians were non-smokers.
“Our cancer awareness programmes and support activities for cancer patients and survivors reveal that many people have had enough of being exposed to secondhand smoke in public areas,” she said.
The society also urged the government to adopt and implement a Tobacco Control Act.
“Premature deaths from NCDs (non-communicable diseases) among people in their productive years cost US$5.9mil (RM24.4mil) in upper middle income countries such as Malaysia.
“Preventing these deaths will go a long way towards decreasing our healthcare costs, and help build a sustainable, economically viable and prosperous future,” she said.
Fomca’s Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control (MCTC) secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said the National Strategic Plan on Tobacco Control listed non-air-conditioning restaurants as the next target to be made non-smoking areas this year.
Fomca urged the government to be more aggressive in promoting tobacco control measures because the country had not made much progress in the last 30 years as the prevalence of smoking has been hovering between 21% and 23% of the population, said Sha’ani.
Smoking cessation specialist Dr Amer Siddiq Amer Nordin said the Health Ministry’s move was in keeping with the country’s commitment to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
For those wishing to quit, go to the nearest mQuit centre. Find it at http://jomquit.moh.gov.my/.