Mixed reactions to smoking ban at eateries

  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 30 Oct 2019

Rule-abiding: Patrons at a restaurant in Penang enjoying a smoke-free meal. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

GEORGE TOWN: Non-smokers here are rejoicing over the court’s decision to dismiss a constitutional challenge against the Health Ministry’s ban on smoking in all food outlets in the form of educational enforcement nationwide on Jan 1 this year.

Welcoming the news, company director and ex-smoker MK Muthu Kumar, 50, said people should not smoke in public areas but at designated smoking spots.

“Smokers can puff away at designated smoking zones, but not at eateries where other people are enjoying their meals.

“I used to smoke but due to health problems, my doctor advised me to stop smoking.

“I then started by cutting down on smoking and have now completely stopped, ” he said.

A 26-year-old freelancer, who only wanted to be known as Ng, said he was happy with the ban but hoped that stricter action could be taken.

“As a non-smoker, I get very uncomfortable and annoyed when people smoke at eateries such as at nasi kandar outlets.

“Once, I saw the ‘no smoking’ sign at a shop but people just ignored it. The shop owner did not even take any action against the smokers.

“I sent a WhatsApp message to the official Malaysia Bebas Asap Rokok number that I saw on the Health Ministry’s website but did not get any replies either.

“When I visited the shop again, smokers were still puffing away, so I guess no action was taken, ” he added.

Meanwhile, storekeeper Farouk Ikmal Badaruddin, 45, called for the ban to be carried out in stages, instead of being implemented immediately.

“I do not think it is a problem for individuals to smoke as some of us smoke to release stress.

“I understand that smokers should not smoke in public areas and at eateries but there should be a designated smoking area for us.

“I have visited Korea and Japan and saw that they have specific areas for smokers to take a puff so that non-smokers are not affected, ” said the current smoker.

A stall owner, who only wished to be known as Atu, 59, said it was difficult for him to stop customers from smoking.

“Some customers are very fussy and cannot accept being told not to smoke here.

“They told us that this is an open area so they should be allowed to smoke.

“We put up ‘no smoking’ signs but some customers get angry when we urged them not to smoke, ” he said when met at his stall at the Esplanade here.

Atu, however, said the number of people smoking at his stall has fallen for the past five months.

“I’m starting to notice that most of the smokers would respect other customers by walking away to smoke, ” he said, adding that Health Department officers visited the premises a few months ago and issued compounds to those who were found smoking in the area.

Last month, state Health Committee chairman Dr Afif Bahardin launched the Batu Ferringhi tourism area as a smoke-free zone.

He reportedly said the smoke-free zone would begin at the Penang Floating Mosque and end at Bayview Beach Resort along Jalan Batu Ferringhi, adding that smokers would not be 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.

Dr Afif said there would also be designated smoke-free areas in all of the five districts in Penang.

Penang Health Department director Dr Asmayani Khalib was also reported as saying that passive smokers were at risk of diseases such as asthma, ear infections, bronchitis, pneumonia and cancer.

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