Errant smokers proving to be the bane of smoking ban

Ignoring the signs: Eatery owners are urging the Health Ministry to ramp up enforcement to stop smokers from lighting up at the table.

PETALING JAYA: Some errant smokers are still lighting up despite the smoking ban and fines having been in force for over four years, say eateries.

They urge the Health Ministry to carry out more enforcement and awareness campaigns to realise the goal of making Malaysia a smoke-free nation.

Sahabat Tomyam Prihatin Semalaysia Association adviser Che Mamat Chemod said since the government enforced the smoking ban in 2019, there had been many improvements.

“Hardcore smokers do not care about protecting non-smokers and some don’t care about being fined, and can even challenge the government on social media.

“When they are too deep into the habit, they lose awareness about the consequences of their actions and do not realise that they are nurturing an addictive and bad habit,” he said.

Che Mamat urged the Health Ministry to have more anti-smoking campaigns and enforcement activities to stop the public from lighting up at eateries.

He suggested that designated smoking rooms be set up in places such as airports, shopping malls and public areas to protect non-smokers and ensure better cleanliness.

Petaling Jaya Coffee Shop Association president Keu Kok Ming said while compliance was generally good, there were still some incidents of customers trying to light up despite knowing they were not allowed to do so.

“Eatery operators have trained their staff to remind customers not to light up. Moreover, all food and beverage premises are mandated to put up a no smoking sign to remind their customers.

“But more regular enforcement will create more awareness and help remind customers that they cannot light up and get away with it,” he said.

Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control secretary-general Muhammad Sha’ani Abdullah said compliance with the smoking ban would need leadership by example.

“It could start with ensuring that all lawmakers respect the rule of law by not smoking anywhere on Parliament grounds,” he said, adding that all government offices had been smoke-free since 1982.

“While enforcement had only targeted those caught smoking, it lacked the critical mass to encourage others to comply.”

Muhammad Sha’ani added that social change would require an undertaking from the whole of society – from parents and educators to public policies.

“While we all learn in school that smoking is unhealthy and wasteful, 40% of adult males in Malaysia are smokers and they smoke in public areas.

“Such public displays of adults smoking have normalised smoking although tobacco advertising and scenes in television were banned long ago,” he said.

To help wean the influence of smoking off the younger generation, adults must stop smoking in public, he said.

Between January and April this year, the Health Ministry issued 14,872 smoking summonses totalling RM3.7mil while in 2022, 30,648 summonses amounting to RM7.6mil were issued.

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