JOHOR BAHRU: At least five people, including a Singaporean, were fined for smoking at eateries in Johor Bahru's Larkin area on Tuesday (Jan 1), as a nationwide ban kicked in.
The ban has been put in place by the Ministry of Health to protect the public from exposure to cigarette smoke. The prohibition encompasses all food outlets from restaurants to food courts, both indoors and outdoors.
Health officials have carried out enforcement operations throughout Malaysia to catch errant smokers who did not abide by the ban.
In Johor, a total of 150 officers from the state health department were deployed between 8am and midnight on Tuesday.
State chief health and environmental officer Kayrul Hidayah Mansor told CNA on Wednesday morning that five offenders - a Singaporean, two Egyptians and two Malaysians - were caught either smoking or vaping.
“The tourists claimed they were not aware of the smoking ban, but they accepted the summonses after we explained the new ruling to them,” she said in a phone interview.
“We were forced to issue the summonses to smokers who continue to violate the law despite no-smoking signs were on display everywhere,” she added.
The summonses carried a fine of RM250 (US$61). The amount will be reduced to RM150 if payment is made at any district health office within a month.
Repeat offenders will not get to enjoy the discount, while the fine will be increased to RM350 for those who are found guilty of the offence for the third and subsequent times.
Ms Kayrul Hidayah said Johor health officers have been instructed to continue monitoring so that the ban is successfully enforced.
READ: Malaysia considers total vaping ban after reports of US deaths
JOHOR EATERIES COMPLY WITH NEW ANTI-SMOKING LAW
Meanwhile, "no smoking" signs were prominently displayed at several eateries CNA visited in Johor Bahru, with no ashtrays provided on the tables.
At Johor Bahru B Point Restaurant, a popular stopover for commuters after clearing Malaysia immigration checkpoint at the Woodlands Causeway, “no-smoking” signs were placed on several pillars.
No diner was flouting the law.
Restaurant manager Safuwan Ashraf told CNA that staff members have been instructed to ask customers who wish to smoke to leave the restaurant.
Smokers are allowed to light up their cigarettes at least three metres away from all eateries.
“We have been enforcing this for the last six months.
“I think it’s actually good for business because most of our customers are non-smokers, and they are likely to sit longer if the place is not reeking of cigarette smoke all the time,” said Mr Safuwan, who manages the restaurant on most nights.
B Point is frequented by many Singaporeans, who stop here to have a meal, wash their cars and buy groceries.
Mr Andy Chang, a Singaporean who was having dinner at B Point on Tuesday evening, told CNA that he was aware of the ban and has been careful not to break the law.
“I think it can be a little frustrating because I used to enjoy smoking while sitting (in this restaurant) after finishing my meal. Now, I have to walk outside. But I do not want to risk getting fined,” he said.
Over at Adam Hawa Cafe, a popular supper joint located 10 minutes away from the Causeway, many patrons were seen stepping outside to take a puff.
One of them, Malaysian Alif Umar, grumbled that while the government's intention to discourage smoking was good, it was unfair to ban smoking at eateries with alfresco dining areas.
“Many eateries have both indoor and outdoor sitting areas. Typically indoors which are air-conditioned are meant for non-smokers while those who wish to smoke while having their meals can sit outside,” he said.
“Now it seems like we can barely smoke anywhere,” he said.
Similarly, none of the patrons were seen smoking at the tables at the food court in Pandan rest and recreation stop, a popular eating area located around 5km from downtown Johor Bahru.
Mr Redzuan Mahmud, a Singaporean tourist who was having his dinner with his wife and two young children, said the smoking ban was a “long time coming”.
“I lost count of the number of times we had to leave the restaurants in JB because our children were coughing from the cigarette smoke,” said the business consultant.
“It’s good and hopefully the government will continue to enforce it,” he added.
FINE AND JAIL TERM FOR OFFENDERS
Elsewhere in Malaysia, summonses were also issued in Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Perak and Kelantan on Tuesday, according to Bernama.
Offenders who smoke in banned areas can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years.
Moreover, owners of food establishments who fail to display no-smoking signs can be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed up to six months.
For providing smoking facilities, they can be fined up to RM5,000 or jailed for up to one year.