‘We don’t want to be fined as well’

All prepared: Coffeeshop operator Micah Ooi cleaning the No Smoking sign before the ban is enforced.

PETALING JAYA: Eatery operators are bracing themselves for the full enforcement of the no-smoking rule at eateries nationwide.

They are worried about a possible decline in business and being issued summonses because of stubborn smokers.

Major eatery operator associations comprising tens of thousands of Indian Muslim restaurants and Chinese coffeeshops said that while the rule is welcomed, the smoking culture is so entrenched that it will not be easy to be completely smoke-free in a short space of time.

They also worry that despite their full cooperation with the authorities, they will be penalised unfairly should customers continue to light up at their premises.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the grace period has been more than sufficient but it “is not easy to change a bad habit which the people have grown up with”.

“It is not easy to change a culture. We cannot keep giving the excuse that people cannot be changed.

“Some of my members said there should be designated places but that is not a very practical idea.”

Presma has 4,000 members nationwide.

Jawahar reasoned that many eateries are located by the roadside or inside malls and thus designated smoking areas would not really help.

“We just have to comply with the ban come January 2020 and it is time, as second-hand smoke is bad for our children.

“Yes, business will probably dwindle in the first few months, but I am sure over time it will pick up.

“This is the norm in instilling any good habit.

“People will oppose at first but they will adhere to it if the rule is fully enforced.

“I only do not agree if operators are also fined if patrons continue to smoke although we have advised them not to.

“Furthermore, 25% of my members have already stopped selling cigarettes at their eateries, ” said Jawahar, who has 16 restaurants in the Klang Valley.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors Association head Datuk Ho Su Mong said much more needs to be done before the Health Ministry enforces the anti-smoking law fully.

Ho, who claimed that there are 20,000 Malaysian vendors in the association, said the ministry and councils should permit designated smoking areas and not state a mere distance of 3m.

“In Singapore, we have the yellow boxes drawn out for smokers and in Japan, the education campaign on the public is very well done.

“We should emulate that before we go full force and clamp down on smokers fully.

“Also, as we have many non-air-conditioned eateries, this also posed a problem for us.”

Stating that Malaysia has been a smoking nation for more than 50 years, it is proper that the habit is slowly eradicated over time.

“There should be more stages before the law is fully enforced in Malaysia. I am in full support of the law but I think there should be more educational stages.

“Sometimes, the smokers are not at the right distance and I am told that in such cases, not only the smokers would be fined but we too will get a summons, ” said Ho.

Original Penang Kayu Nasi Kandar managing director Burhan Mohamed, who operates 12 restaurants, does not see any major problems when the rule is fully enforced.

“Almost 95% of our customers adhere to the non-smoking regulation. The remaining 5% seem to be a bit stubborn but I do not think that is going to be a major problem for us.

“The sales of cigarettes at my restaurants have also dropped, but our profits are not really affected, ” he said.

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