Malaysia highway rest and recreation stops to be 'no-smoking' zones by year end

A rest stops near Machap, along Malaysia's North-South Expressway. -- ST PHOTO: FILE 
A rest stops near Machap, along Malaysia's North-South Expressway. -- ST PHOTO: FILE 

IPOH (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - All rest and recreation (R&R) stops along highways in Malaysia are to be designated as "no-smoking" zones by year end, with the coverage expanding to a radius of 3m around the covered areas of the facility.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam said on Wednesday that it would mean that eateries and even toilets at R&Rs would be smoke-free.

He added that the ministry had set a target to lower the number of smokers in the country by 16 per cent because the Global Adult Tobacco Survey 2011 showed that 23.1 per cent or 4.7 million Malaysians were smokers.

Vowing to expand "no-smoking" zones in the country, Dr Subramaniam said discussions had been held with the relevant agencies and all had agreed to gazetting R&Rs as "no-smoking" zones.

"We want to implement this as soon as possible.

"The smoke-free zones will cover a 3m radius within the area," he told reporters after launching the national-level "International No Tobacco Day" event at a hypermarket in Meru Raya here.

Dr Subramaniam said that Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) would also gazette its sheltered walkways spanning 23km in the city centre as smoke-free zones.

"The authorities will also be stepping up enforcement and monitoring these areas to deter people from smoking.

"I know that enforcement will be a challenge as it covers a large area but it will be done.

"It is only through strict enforcement that we can drive our message across," he said, adding that offenders could be fined between RM250 and RM500 (S$97 - S$194).

The minister warned that those who failed to pay their compounds could be brought to court and fined a maximum of RM10,000 or face up to two years in prison if found guilty.

Dr Subramaniam said the ministry had also beefed up enforcement against sales and procurement of illegal cigarettes.

He added that the ministry wanted a 70 per cent tax imposed on cigarettes to deter the young from picking up the habit.