I AM writing this letter after returning from a meeting in the lobby of a five-star hotel where I was engulfed in air saturated with cigarette smoke.
In 2007, the Health Ministry stated that it would ban smoking at more places once the “no smoking” rule at 19 designated areas was fully enforced.
The 19 areas included among others hospitals/clinics, public lifts and toilets, restaurants, public transport, government premises, educational institutions, petrol stations, Internet cafes, shopping complexes and hotels.
However, currently we see so many people blatantly breaking the law as there seems to be no enforcement of this law. I have noticed that all hotels allow smoking in the lobby, and even provide ashtrays.
Some hotels in the Klang Valley and in other states have non-smoking rooms, but if you want to smoke, you can ask for an ashtray from housekeeping.
In coffee houses, the hotels will allocate a designated area, as though smoke doesn’t permeate elsewhere. What about the pubs and pubs in hotels – are they exempted from imposing the no-smoking law?
Do mamak restaurants and cafes that have extended their business on to the pavement, have the right to allow smoking? They claim that they cannot control their customers and these customers happily puff away right next to the “no smoking” signs.
Now pedestrians walking on pavements are asphyxiated with cigarette smoke. Even at the airport, at the exit, we see people smoking right under the “no smoking” signs, making a mockery of the law.
If we aspire to be a world class city and a developed nation, the relevant ministries and agencies must take this seriously.
In many countries now, nobody can smoke in pubs. In some countries, nobody can smoke within 40 metres of public buildings’ entrances. In some shopping streets, people cannot smoke at all, as these areas are designated smoke-free zones.
But in Malaysia, in enclosed shopping malls, in spite of “no smoking” signs posted at the entrances and at strategic spots throughout, people smoke inside, in plain sight of uniformed guards.
Smokers can choose when and where to smoke, but non-smokers cannot choose when and where to breathe.
In Europe and the US, I can see that people do not light up in restaurants, shopping malls or other enclosed public space. People there don’t even smoke in public parks or beaches.
The law is strict, penalties are stiff, and law-breakers are viewed as social misfits by society at large.
Poor compliance by people and even poorer enforcement pervades our Malaysian society. Because people can easily get away if caught breaking the law, there is no incentive to abide by the rules that benefit the larger society.
Whatever it is, I think it is time the relevant authorities take responsibility for the enforcement, or all the millions of ringgit spent on campaigns including “Tak Nak” are just exercises in futility and our air quality in premises and surrounding areas will remain polluted.