SMOKERS have become the latest bogey man as the nation goes on an all-out war on smoking. In Kuala Lumpur, the city council DBKL and the Health Ministry are leading the crusade to wipe out a common enemy ... smokers.
I was walking in a park just yesterday and huge newly minted NO SMOKING signage was put up prominently at various strategic locations.
I saw one hanging precariously above one of the many overflowing dustbins in the park, which are by the way perpetually overflowing. Another was posted on a tree at a picnic area that was strewn with discarded paper cups, bottles, plastics, half-eaten meals, wrappers and even soiled diapers. These were repeated many times in various parts of the park.
Sadly, this has become a common sight in many parks around the city and led to unhealthy pest infestations. Yet I did not see even one minuscule NO LITTERING sign. I think littering has become a serious Malaysian habit and, sad to say, not much has been done to get rid of this scourge which, in my opinion, is far worse than smoking.
We can designate areas to smoke or not to smoke, but we cannot designate areas for littering. I hate to be judgemental but I think litterbugs are selfish, thoughtless and badly brought up. I don’t know when this loss of civic-mindedness has become second nature to so many Malaysians. Throwing rubbish wherever and whenever, even from high-rise buildings, which had caused serious injuries and loss of lives, and abuse of public toilets (not flushing, soiling and even breaking toilet seats, and flooding toilets without a thought for the next user) have become Malaysian habits.
It doesn’t matter if the dustbin is just a couple of feet away, Malaysians will just dump and leave their trash on the spot. It is a total waste of taxpayers’ money to spend not only on repairs for the wear and tear but also on the high number of workers needed to clean up after our inconsiderate citizens.
There is definitely a need to reintroduce civic classes in schools and it should start from kindergarten so that responsible and considerate behaviour can be ingrained in our future generations from an early age.
I have friends who are “considerate” smokers. They will ask for permission from those around them before they light up. They will never smoke in a closed or confined area, and will always do so only in areas designated for smoking. They will never smoke in the presence of young children and old people. There is even a friend who has a small portable ashtray in her handbag. But I have yet to meet a considerate litterbug.
I would like to congratulate the Health Minister for his efforts to promote healthy living. However, banning smoking is just one way but not the only way to promote healthy living. Lack of civic-mindedness is causing far more direct and indirect health issues and social problems besides giving Malaysia a bad image.
I therefore urge policymakers, regulators and enforcers to have a balanced approach in their efforts to inculcate healthy living in more aspects than just banning smoking. And why are smokers fined but litterbugs get away scot-free?
DATUK RAMONA SULEIMAN
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