Government Tells Court Smoking Ban Doesn’t Violate Smokers’ Rights

Smokers can still smoke three metres away from eateries.

KUALA LUMPUR, August 22 — The government told the High Court here today that smokers were not deprived of their right to light up, despite a ban on smoking in restaurants, because they could still smoke three metres outside the eatery.

A smokers’ group, calling itself Defenders of Smokers’ Right, is seeking through the use of a judicial review to challenge the government’s decision to impose the ban on smoking in public places.

It claims that the government’s ban violated their rights under the federal constitution, on the basis that smoking is not a crime under Malaysian law.

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan, representing the health ministry, said the decision to implement a ban on smoking in public places was non-justiciable and could not be questioned in court.

In opposing the application, Shamsul stated that it was the minister’s perogative to exercise his official function in implementing the government policy.

“They (smokers’ group) have no right to stop the minister from enforcing the smoking ban,” Free Malaysia Today reported him as saying.

The group’s lawyer, Haniff Khatri Abdulla, in response said that they, as the aggrieved party, were not consulted before the ban was decided.

“We humbly submit that the ban is against the principle of natural justice as the minister did not give us the right to be heard before making the decision,” he said.

The ban on smoking in public spaces was imposed on Jan 1, with fines of up to RM10,000 or three years’ jail on patrons as well as owners of premises who fail to implement the rule.

Its implementation and enforcement have been delayed until the end of the year.

A decision on the review application has been set for October 29.

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