JOHOR BARU: The Johor Health Department is ready to ensure smokers abide by tighter rules when the smoking ban at all eateries takes off on the first day of 2019.
Its director Dr Salehudden Abd Aziz urged the public to play an active role by making a complaint to the department if they came across errant smokers in restaurants, coffeeshops, hawker centres or open-air eateries.
“We do have enough enforcement officers at each district. However, feedback from the public is very much welcome and appreciated,” he said when contacted for his comments on the impending ban.
Dr Salehudden said enforcing the smoking ban was important to show that the ministry was serious in health matters concerning Malaysians.
He said not only would the move deter future generations from picking up the bad habit but it was also a good push for smokers to quit. Those caught smoking at prohibited areas can be fined up to RM10,000 or face two years’ jail.
Under the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 of the Food Act, eatery owners will also have to prevent smokers from violating the ban or risk being fined up to RM2,500.
But the Health Ministry has said the first six months will be more of a grace period to educate and warn smokers, although it has the authority to penalise offenders.
Meanwhile, Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association president Ho Su Meng said members would abide by the law but urged the government to implement the ban in stages by establishing proper smoking zones.
“A six-month grace period for smoking ban is not enough because a habit cannot be changed in a month or two.
“We hope there will be smoking areas because the sale of cigarettes is legal in our country so we should respect the rights of the five million smokers by giving them a proper place to smoke.
“A smoking ban will not reduce the number of smokers but instead cause the sale of illicit cigarettes to go up,” he said.
While smokers and many eatery operators dreaded the ban, others like Rozita Aziz of Restoran Sate Kajang Hj Samuri in Selangor said the outlet had been enforcing a no-smoking policy even before the law was announced.
“Workers at our outlets have been trained to deal with smoking customers by politely asking them not to smoke,” she said.
“Workers themselves are also only allowed to smoke during their break time at least three metres away (from the premises).”