PETALING JAYA: It is unfair to punish eateries when their customers smoke, restaurant operators have complained.
They said they could not risk having their workers harassed or physically harmed by stopping stubborn customers from smoking.
Instead, industry players have suggested that the government focus on increasing enforcement and limiting the sale of cigarettes if it is serious about reducing the number of smokers in the country.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said they could do nothing if customers insisted on lighting up.
“Our workers can only advise the customers to stop smoking – we do not have the authority to prosecute them,” he added.
Jawahar Ali said when smoking at eateries was first banned in 2019, the Health Ministry told them that restaurant owners would not be fined if they had done their part to discourage their customers from puffing away. This included placing anti-smoking posters around the premises and not putting ashtrays on the tables.
But recently, there have been cases in which restaurant owners and smoking customers were both fined, said Jawahar Ali, who himself received a ticket for the offence – even though he was the one who reported the matter.
Recalling an incident at his restaurant where some rowdy customers refused to leave, Jawahar Ali said he reported the matter to the ministry. To his surprise, he was slapped with a fine alongside the customers after health officers arrived.
He said a complaint on the matter had been filed with the ministry earlier this year, but he had yet to receive a reply.
Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association deputy president C. Krishnan said some customers turned hostile when they were told to stop smoking in eateries.
He said they would verbally harass the workers, spill their drinks on the floor and demand that the workers clean it up.
To make things worse, these customers would lie to health officers and say they were not warned of the violation when caught smoking in the premises, he said.
“It is very disheartening when we are fined but unable to provide evidence. There is no reason to risk my workers from getting bullied. It is the job of the health officers,” he added.
Petaling Jaya Coffeeshop Association president Keu Kok Meng said his staff had been “strenuously trained” to get customers to stop smoking. Instead of punishing law-abiding restaurant owners, he urged the government to focus on stepping up enforcement against smokers and limiting the sale of cigarettes.
Under the Control of Tobacco Products (Amendment) Regulations 2018, effective Jan 1, 2019, smoking is banned within a 3m-radius of where food is prepared, sold or served, be it inside or outside a building or vehicle.
Offenders could face a fine of up to RM10,000 and up to two years’ imprisonment.
Reports on those who commit the offence can be sent via WhatsApp to 010-860 8949.