PETALING JAYA: If the eatery operator has done all that has to be done to discourage smoking and the smoker still puffs away, only the latter will be fined, says Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.
He added that the one-year grace period given to Malaysians before the anti-smoking ruling is enforced seems to have had a significant impact.
“To date, almost all restaurants have displayed the No Smoking sign.
“Compliance among smokers has improved tremendously even though no summons for offenders has been issued.
“One year of education enforcement has had a significant impact. The number of those not complying is minimal, ” said Dr Lee.
He said during checks at eateries in rural areas, he had noticed that some smokers would go away from the eateries to smoke, while some would hide their cigarettes and still smoke inside the shop.
“This shows that smokers are aware of the ruling be it at rural or urban areas.
“By the way, those not complying are not ‘rebels’ – just smokers who did not comply with the smoking ban.”
He commended eatery owners who had been cooperative by displaying the No Smoking signs.
“If you have any restaurant which does not display the No Smoking sign, please let us know and we will advise them accordingly.”
He said that eatery operators need not worry come January if smokers still light up at their premises.
“We will fine the operator if they don’t display the No Smoking signage and still provide ashtrays in the restaurant.
“If a smoker smokes in the restaurant, the smoker will be fined and not the restaurant owner, as long as there is no evidence the restaurant owner encouraged the smoker.”
Eatery operators have expressed concern that they too would be burnt by the law should smokers insist on smoking at their premises.
Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad announced on April 25 that the education enforcement period for the smoking ban would be extended until the end of the year to give more time for smokers to increase their awareness on the dangers of smoking.
Initially, the six-month grace period was supposed to end in July after eateries nationwide were gazetted as “no smoking” zones in January.
Beginning this year, the Health Ministry announced that smoking at all restaurants, coffeeshops and hawker centres – even open-air eateries – nationwide would be banned starting 2019.
Those caught smoking in prohibited areas can be fined up to RM10,000 or face two years’ jail, while eateries found to have allowed customers to light up will be slapped with a maximum fine of RM2,500.
Smokers are, however, permitted to light up 3m away from the premises.
Besides tobacco products, vape and shisha with nicotine are also included in the ban.
Eatery operators are required to display prominently “No Smoking” posters measuring at least 40cm x 50cm at their premises.
Facilities for smokers such as smoking rooms and ashtrays are not allowed.