GEORGE TOWN: Confusion reigned among restaurant owners and smokers even as the smoking ban at all eateries takes effect today.
Some are still caught unawares by the enforcement – whether it is immediate or six months later.
Others are unsure about the fine or how the three-metre rule is applied.
The Health Ministry has stated that smoking zones can be designated three metres away from the dining area.
An operator of a coffee stall in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling here, who wanted to be known only as Chan, was unsure whether her stall would be affected.
“Are you sure that such a small stall like mine will be fined? What if I allow them to smoke a few metres away from my stall?” she asked.
“I’m not sure about the enforcement, though I heard that it’s only a warning in the first six months.”
Over at the Little India enclave, two famous nasi kandar restaurants have started to advise patrons to refrain from smoking in their premises.
Burkhan Beevi Ala Pitchai, 42, whose husband owns the Kassim Mustafa Nasi Dalcha Restaurant in Chulia Street, said customers would buy cigarettes from their shop but not smoke there.
“We advise them against smoking here and we have put up a no-smoking sign for some time.
“There’s no complaint so far,” she said.
Penang Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said the state Health Department would monitor the situation with help from the two local councils.
“We have stipulated guidelines for the enforcement officers on the ruling.
“The Penang Island City Council has also received the authority letter to take action against smokers in the smoke-free zones under the Control of Tobacco Products Act,” he said.
In another development, the Health Ministry said it did not have agents selling no-smoking signs at restaurants and food premises, Bernama reported.
“The ministry received reports that there were people selling the signs for RM10,” Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said after a gotong-royong programme in Ipoh.
Dr Lee said owners of food premises and restaurants could buy or make their own no-smoking signage according to the stipulated measurement of 40cm x 50cm.
The signage, he added, must have the ministry’s logo and could be in other languages besides Bahasa Malaysia.
“It just must have the no-smoking logo,” he said, adding that only one sign would suffice at each eatery.
In Kulai, Johor, coffeeshop owner Lim Lee Peng, 48, lamented the impact of the no-smoking ruling on business.
“Small businesses like ours might suffer the most as we would lose customers.
“We also risk being penalised for the actions of others,” she said when met at her shop yesterday.
But much as she disagreed with the new ruling, she said she had complied with it by putting up “no smoking” signs on the coffeeshop walls.
Another restaurant owner, Sanish Jasmin, 50, said she welcomed the smoking ban as it would make her restaurant smoke-free and more comfortable to non-smokers.
Johor Baru Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice-president Datuk Loh Laim Hiang said that although the smoking ban was a good move, it would affect small businesses.
He added that the ministry’s three-metre smoking rule was not clearly spelled out.
“There should be a proper designated area for those who want to smoke near eateries, instead of just having the three-metre measurement,” he said.
Electrician Siew Xin Ming, 42, who has been smoking for over 20 years, said the ban was too harsh and should be enforced with some consideration.
“I understand that it is an unhealthy habit that harms us and others but there should at least be a place for us to smoke near the areas like what other countries have,” he said.