IPOH: Educational enforcement on smoking ban will be intensified in rural areas nationwide, says Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.
He said support of the ban at urban areas was encouraging, but there were still pockets of non-compliance at rural areas.
"We need to enhance educational enforcement at villages, and out of town areas, because we find people settling there are still not adhering to the ban," he told reporters at a health community event held in Gunung Rapat here on Sunday (April 28).
It was reported recently that the ministry had extended the six-month educational enforcement period that was enforced in Jan 1, this year.
The extension is until Dec 31, this year.
Dr Lee said the extension did not mean that people could smoke at open air eateries.
"If people are still smoking openly at such eateries, refuse to follow advice, they can be issued a fine.
"We are not punishing smokers, but our intention is to give them a chance to quit, reduce smoking or if they can't do that, then at least they should not smoke in public," he added.
On claims by restaurant owners that their business was dropping, and the economy was affected, Dr Lee said "The government collects between RM4bil and RM5bil in taxes from the tobacco industry annually, but spends at least RM16bil a year to treat smoking related illnesses."
Thus, Dr Lee said after Dec 31, there would be no more extensions, and come Jan 1, next year, those defying the rule, would face the music.