KUALA LUMPUR: The first six months after eateries nationwide have been gazetted as “no-smoking” zones from January, will be more of a grace period to educate and warn smokers.
“Although we have the authority to penalise offenders, according to standard practice, the first six months would be more towards warning and education.
“But if there are still some stubborn smokers, then the officers can straightaway penalise them,” Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said during a press conference at Parliament yesterday.
There are 5,008 environmental health officers from the Health Ministry tasked with enforcing the ban.
“In this six months, we will double up on enforcement as a process to educate the public.
“Then we will do periodic enforcement by the state health departments,” he said.
When asked if manpower was an issue, Dr Lee said the lack of enforcement officers was a problem in most government agencies but in order for the ban to be effective, public awareness and cooperation were needed as enforcement alone would not be enough.
Dr Lee also noted that restaurant operators might face a problem in enforcing the ban as they had no power to take action.
“But they have the responsibility to put up a ‘no-smoking’ notice and to also not provide any facilities (such as smoking rooms or ashtrays) for smokers.
“If there are still smokers who are reluctant, complaints about non-compliant smokers can be channelled to the ministry's hotline at 03-8892 4530.
“The officers will come at the spot to take action against the offender,” he said.
As for specifications that eatery operators needed to comply with, Dr Lee said that they need to display prominently at least one rectangular 40cm x 50cm “no-smoking” poster at their premises.
“Smokers can still light up 10 feet (3m) away from the eateries,” said Dr Lee.
Besides tobacco products, vape and shisha with nicotine were also included in the ban, clarified Dr Lee.
In October, the Health Ministry announced that smoking in all restaurants, coffeeshops and hawker centres nationwide would be banned starting next year, even in open air eateries.
Those caught smoking in prohibited areas would be fined up to RM10,000 or face two years jail while eateries found to have allowed customers to light up would be fined up to RM2,500.
Coffeeshop and restaurant owners had earlier raised concerns over the implementation and enforcement of the new ruling.