Smoking ban – many feeling the heat

Keeping up with the regulation: Jamaludeen putting up a ‘no smoking’ sign at his restaurant in Butterworth.

BUTTERWORTH: Smokers may be dreading it as the clock ticks down to Jan 1 when smoking and vaping will be prohibited at all eateries across Malaysia, but non-smokers are thrilled about it.

Publishing manager Rizal Hashim, 62, who was among a group of friends puffing away outside a restaurant, said they were feeling the heat before enforcement starts in about a week’s time.

“Sometimes, smokers come together at eateries not just for meals, but to discuss things or business deals which may take a long time to complete.

“Smoking will naturally be involved during the process so it will be ideal if eateries can set up smoking corners or allow smoking at outdoor areas.

“We are aware of the dangers of smoking, but it’s a habit not easy to curb overnight.

“The law will protect the people and we fear it, but we do not feel that will reduce the number of smokers,” he said, adding that he hoped smoking would be allowed when they are dining outside restaurants.

The ban has been supported by those wanting a smoke-free dining experience, such as sales executive Josapiyn Goh, 38, who said she no longer had to worry about smokers “interrupting” her meals.

“It is irritating when smokers decide to light up while we are eating.

“With the ban, we have better flexibility in choosing places to dine in without being worried about smokers puffing away near us,” she said.

Her husband Peddy Goh, 41, said the smoking ban had resulted in a cleaner environment.

“I hope it will be enforced without objection from smokers by providing them designated smoking corners,” he said.

A nasi kandar outlet here is seeing a drop in customers following the smoking ban.

Nasi Kandar Jamal Mohamed manager Jamaludeen Mohd Haniffa said while some customers decide to stand outside to smoke, many of its regular diners have not returned.

“We spent RM200,000 this year to upgrade the restaurant’s interiors and rented five parking lots from the council outside to cater to the crowd, but business has dropped by 20% since the smoking ban.

He also said the restaurant had put up no-smoking posters “so if someone still insist on smoking, we shall let the authorities do the enforcement.”

In George Town, taxi driver Lim Kok Beng, 70, said he does not understand the need for the smoking ban.

“Car exhaust fumes are worse. They should look into reducing vehicles on the road instead.

“They should also look into clogged drains, especially in the heritage enclave.

“Dengue is a serious problem here. They should concentrate on solving it rather than taking away our little pleasures,” he said when met outside a coffee shop along Victoria Street.

Lim, who has been smoking off-and-on for the past 30 years, said it seemed unfair to stop people from smoking at coffee shops.

“It should be our choice. Create awareness and educate the public about the dangers of smoking but do not force us to stop by imposing fines,” he said, adding that his 92-year-old father-in-law was a chain smoker who is still fit as a fiddle.

Tourist Khairul Ali, who is visiting Penang from Muar, Johor, said he understood the ban and the implementation of the fine but felt it would not carry much weight.

“There must be enforcement.

I know there will still be people who will find ways to smoke.

“A designated area where we smokers can gather just to have a puff will be much appreciated,” said Khairul, 33.

Drinks shop operator Micah Ooi said despite a grace period before the ban, his shop had made a conscious move to inform customers that they were not permitted to smoke.

“Some still do light up but we are quick to stop them. This has unfortunately caused some customers to not return.

“We understand the need to have a healthier environment and the shop is cleaner now but we have lost some business.

“I feel smokers would feel better about the ban if there are proper designated areas,” he said.

The Health Ministry had announced that smoking and vaping would be prohibited in all eateries next year.

Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said offenders would be fined RM250, but this amount would be reduced to RM150 if the fine was settled in less than a month.

Dr Lee said the no-smoking plan over the past year had significantly reduced the number of smokers in eateries, especially in urban areas.

In Ipoh, it is still common to see people smoking at coffee shops for now.

Chong Poh Onn, 47, who runs an eatery at Ipoh Garden, said despite the no smoking signages displayed at his shop, there were still many enjoying their cigarettes.

Chong said he had on many occasions told them not to smoke inside the shop.

“They should know about the ruling and it is not for me to keep reminding them over and over again. But come Jan 1, I do expect fewer people at my shop, with the ruling in place,” he added.

Perak Coffee Shopkeeper’s Association president Ooi Beng Yeaw said come Jan 1, smokers would have no choice but to adhere to the ruling. Ooi said with a fine in place, people would not dare smoke in such places.

“We have adequate signages to inform the public on the smoking ban. We also do our part to inform customers not to smoke, when we see them doing so.”

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