Some defy smoking ban in eateries even as KL plans to add more areas

Offenders face fines and jail when 6-month grace period ends

An employee of an eatery in Sandakan, Sarawak, putting up a no-smoking sign on Tuesday, the day the ban kicked in.
An employee of an eatery in Sandakan, Sabah, putting up a no-smoking sign on Tuesday, the day the ban kicked in. PHOTO: BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA • A check on 58 eateries across Malaysia to see the effect of a smoking ban that kicked in on Jan 1 found that there was general compliance at eateries in Penang and Ipoh, but many of the restaurants surveyed in the Klang Valley and Melaka defied the ban and some patrons were seen puffing away.

The places surveyed by a team sent out by The Star included mamak restaurants, coffee shops, foodcourts and one fast food outlet, the Malaysian newspaper said in a report yesterday.

In October, the health ministry announced that smoking in all restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres - even open-air eateries - nationwide would be banned from this year.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, who personally conducted spot checks on some restaurants in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, said the government planned to gazette more establishments as no-smoking areas to make Malaysia a "clean-air nation".

"The nine types of establishments currently under the smoking ban include open-air eateries, shop lots, restaurants and also food trucks," said Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly.

"But day by day we will identify more public places to add to the list such as launderettes, as sometimes there are people smoking there and this can be a hazard to children."

While there was no timeline to gazette more places as smoke-free zones, he said the list would be expanded gradually.

Dr Dzulkefly said the ministry was also ready to face a smokers' rights group, which filed for judicial review to challenge the smoking ban on Monday, in court.

"The government stands firm in protecting vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children from cigarette smoke in public places," he said. "We are more than willing to see them in court. We have a very firm ground."

Out of the 58 eateries The Star observed, 48 had put up at least one sign warning customers not to smoke.

In the Klang Valley, workers at two eateries were seen telling off customers who tried to light up.

In Penang, all 20 restaurants observed had no-smoking signs put up but there were smokers puffing away in five. In Ipoh, one patron was seen lighting up in the back alley.

All eight establishments surveyed in Melaka had no-smoking signs put up, but some customers were smoking freely.

Those caught smoking in prohibited areas can be fined by up to RM10,000 (S$3,300) or face two years' jail, while eateries found to have allowed customers to light up will be slapped with a maximum fine of RM2,500.

No fines will be issued in the first six months after the ban takes effect, Dr Dzulkefly had said earlier, as enforcement officers would focus instead on raising public awareness of the ban. But repeat offenders would be taken note of, he said.

Smokers are, however, permitted to light up 3m away from the establishments.

Besides tobacco products, vapes and shishas with nicotine are also included in the ban.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2019, with the headline Some defy smoking ban in eateries even as KL plans to add more areas. Subscribe