IPOH: Despite being "unpopular" for the move to ban smoking at open-air eateries, Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad says the health of the people was more important.
"I know I am not popular after the announcement was made to ban smoking at such places beginning January next year," said the Health Minister.
"I have 'friends' calling me saying that I will not get their vote since Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) will hold its elections next year.
"I am not worried about losing votes.
"What is more important for me is that the health of the people is not compromised," the Amanah strategic director said in his winding up speech at the party's convention here on Sunday (Dec 16).
"We want to carry out early screening, especially for chronic diseases.
"Prevention is better than cure, and as minister-in-charge, I have a heavy responsibility to do the best for the people," he added.
However, more than 20,000 eatery owners under the umbrella of three associations are against the ministry's move to ban smoking at open-air premises.
The three associations are the Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association (MSCSPGA), Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) and Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas).
MSCSPGA president Datuk Ho Su Mong had said the ban on smoking at open-air restaurants and coffee shops is unrealistic with little effort being made by the authorities to get smokers to kick the habit.