KUALA LUMPUR: Teething problems have been reported in enforcing Putrajaya’s smoking ban in food establishments, with some still puffing away in violation of the new rules.
In a report on Wednesday (Jan 2), the Malay Mail said a few smokers were found not complying with the ban, after checks at several Selangor eateries.
Checks by the New Straits Times at a number of restaurants in Penang state early Tuesday also found some smokers ignoring the new rule.
In Alor Setar, Kedah, eatery operator Ismail Mohamad said he had yet to put up notices to inform patrons that smoking is not allowed on his premises from Jan 1. This is because the regulation is still new, he said.
“Let us see the developments. Moreover, mine is just a small business with many of the customers being smokers," he told Bernama.
A hardcore smoker in Ismail’s eatery who insisted on anonymity pointed out that although the ban took effect on Tuesday, no enforcement checks have been conducted. Hence, many smokers continued smoking.
Over in Johor state, the health department inspected 319 food premises and issued 22 warning notices on premises that failed to comply with the ban.
The Perlis state health department has also issued warning notices to four eatery operators for failing to display the no-smoking sign according to specifications.
MORE CLARITY ON RULES NEEDED
Some smokers called for clarity in the rules and regulations.
In particular, the rule that they can only light up more than 3m away from an eatery requires more clarification, they said.
“Where do we start to count the three-metre ruling? Is it from the compound of the restaurant or from its front door? Does this mean we cannot smoke outside as well?” smoker S Dhillan, 29, was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
“What about outdoor sitting then and most importantly who would clearly define where to start measuring, would it be the ministry or the eatery operator?
“All this might seem trivial but we prefer to have all the information so we can better educate ourselves,’’ he added.
Some social media users have created memes on measuring the 3m distance.
The 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey showed 22.8 per cent of Malaysians – or five million people – aged 15 years old and above are smokers.
In October, the ministry announced that smoking in all restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres nationwide would be banned starting Jan 1.
Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye was also quoted as saying that smokers can only light up more than 3m away from an eatery.
Those caught smoking in prohibited areas will be fined up to RM10,000 (US$2,417) or face two years’ jail.
Eatery owners who allowed customers to light up will be slapped with a maximum fine of RM5,000 or face at least one year in jail.
Owners of eateries who fail to put up no-smoking signs can be fined up to RM3,000 or face a maximum jail term of six months.
However, the Malaysian Health Ministry will give offenders a grace period of six months to comply with the ban, during which it would educate and warn restaurant owners and smokers.
SABAH AND SARAWAK YET TO IMPLEMENT BAN
Meanwhile, the state governments of Sabah and Sarawak have deferred the implementation of the ban.
The Sabah government said the matter will need to be discussed in the state Cabinet, before a decision is made on whether to amend local by-laws.
In the meantime, many food outlets have voluntarily put up “no smoking” signs, reported the Malay Mail.
The Sarawak state government also said the ban will be implemented only after the policy has been adopted under its own Local Government Ordinance.
Sarawak’s local government and housing minister Sim Kui Hian noted that Sarawak already has its own local government ordinances on smoking.
“The Sarawak Health Department under the Ministry of Health is calling to discuss with the stakeholders especially the coffee shops association on their recently gazetted federal anti-smoking law and its implementation,” he said.