KUALA LUMPUR: Despite studies showing that most eateries adhered to the smoking ban, the Health Ministry has extended the six-month educational enforcement period that was enforced from Jan 1, 2019.
The educational enforcement extension would mean there will be no fines imposed until Jan 1 next year.
Health Minister Datuk Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad said the gazetting of food eateries as no smoking zones under Regulation 11 of the Control of Tobacco Products (PPKHT) Act 2004 received positive feedback, with more saying they were able to breathe clean air and enjoy more comfortable surroundings.
And this was confirmed by the National Cancer Society, which had carried out a study showing most people had not smoked in the gazetted areas.
"This shows the commitment of Malaysians in adhering to the regulation and ensuring the health and comfort of all when eating in public areas," he said in a statement on Thursday (April 25).
The gazetting of the law was in line with Article 8 of the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Dr Dzulkefly said the study was carried out from April 1-17 through direct observation of 173 eateries in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, which had been listed as places that did not adhere to the smoking ban at the initial implementation.
Among the observations made was whether there was a clear display of no-smoking signs, presence of ash trays and people smoking in eateries.
On average, 170 (98%) eateries did not provide ash trays and 131 (76%) of these places had clear display of the no-smoking sign.
As many as 104 outlets were 100% free from any smoking activities while 69 (40%) had not more than three people smoking.
The positive impact could also be seen in the number of smokers registering to quit through jomquit.moh.gov.my, with 580 people signing up from January to April compared with an average of 428 for the same period in previous years.
"The ministry is of the opinion that the educational enforcement carried out had given a very positive impact," he said.
However, the ministry was also aware that there were still smokers who did not want to kick the habit, he said.
"To give ample opportunity for the smokers to increase their knowledge and awareness about the dangers of smoking, the educational enforcement period will be extended by another six months, until the end of December," he said.
The steering committee meeting, which he chaired on April 16, had agreed to the extension.
"The committee has also decided to ask for additional allocations from the Cabinet so that this group of smokers are helped to quit through the mQuit programme," he said.
The postponement was made to enable the government to step up efforts in helping smokers to quit, he added.