GEORGE TOWN: The move to turn Batu Ferringhi into a smoke-free zone has drawn the ire from business operators along the popular tourism belt.
Food operator K. Ratha, 58, said she was worried that her business might be badly affected once the law was gazetted.
“We have customers who smoke including women. They like to take a puff while chilling along the beach after their meals, ” she said, adding that she has been in the business for 20 years.
A reflexology shop owner, who wished to be known only as Ah Hoe, also disagreed with the initiative.
“Tourists generate income for the industry and they want to do what they want on their holidays. Stopping them from smoking will definitely affect our business, ” he said.
“The beach is an open area, how can you stop people from smoking there?”
A French tourist Giulia Raio said although it was a good initiative, she did not fully agree that it should be implemented at a tourist spot.
“If Batu Ferringhi is made a smoke-free area, many tourists will feel their freedom is restricted and they may avoid coming here, ” the 36-year-old who owns a bakery in France said.
One British visitor, however, welcomed the initiative and lauded the government for doing a good job.
“All my friends in England gave up smoking as it is harmful to our health, ” she said.
State health committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin said that the smoke-free zone would begin at the Penang Floating Mosque and end at Bayview Beach Resort along Jalan Batu Ferringhi.
“Smokers are not allowed to take a puff at non-designated smoking areas in hotels, resorts, restaurants, sports and recreation centres, relaxation centres, spas and even on the beach.
“There will be several designated areas for smokers to take a puff and most of the hotels do not allow smoking in the rooms too.
“We will send an application to the Health Ministry to gazette Batu Ferringhi as a smoke-free zone, ” he said, adding that the process would take between three to four months.
Dr Afif added that offenders would be issued with a compound between RM250 and RM500.
“Those who fail to pay their compounds can be brought to court and fined a maximum of RM10,000, or face up to two years in prison if found guilty, ” he said after launching the Batu Ferringhi tourism area as a smoke-free zone at SJK (C) Pai Chai in Jalan Batu Ferringhi.
Dr Afif added that there would also be designated smoke-free areas in all of the five districts in Penang.
“After Batu Ferringhi, next will be Bayan Baru and Balik Pulau. As for the mainland, Bandar Sunway in Seberang Jaya, Bertam and Nibong Tebal will also be gazetted as smoke-free zones soon, ” he said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Penang Health Department director Dr Asmayani Khalib said passive smokers were at risk of diseases such as asthma, ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and cancer.
“According to research, the treatment cost for illnesses due to smoking exceeds RM3bil a year. The treatment cost is fully borne by the government, ” she said.
Dr Asmayani added that tobacco control was one of the cost-effective approaches in controlling and preventing smoking-related diseases.