I’m Not Your Enemy, But Please Quit Smoking, Dzulkefly Tells Smokers

Those who don’t smoke still have a right to get clean air, the health minister says.

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 7 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) today launched a campaign to empower non-smokers to demand smoke-free surroundings, one week into the nationwide public smoking ban.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad, who officiated the launch of the “Speak Out” campaign, noted that the roughly 80 per cent of Malaysians who do not light up are exposed to secondhand smoke, citing the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) 2011 finding that eight out of 10 adults get exposed when visiting cafes or coffee shops.

The GATS report also found that seven out of 10 adults — making up 42 per cent of Malaysians — are exposed to secondhand smoke when frequenting restaurants and eateries, with four out of 10 adults similarly exposed at home and at work.

“And for children, 37 per cent children under the age of 15 are also exposed to secondhand smoke in whatever setting — be it in a car, at home, at public eateries, and so on,” Dzulkefly said at the launch of the “Speak Out: Express Your Right” five-year campaign at KL Sentral here.

The campaign will see, among other programmes, volunteers taking the KTM trains to as far as Tanjung Malim in Perak, and Seremban in Negeri Sembilan, to promote the campaign through the use of banners. Dzulkefly earlier took a train from Bandar Tasik Selatan to witness this.

Dzulkefly expressed hope that the campaign would bring about better public health in Malaysia by decreasing the incidence of smoking among Malaysians, noting that 20,000 smoking-related deaths are recorded every year in the country.

“This is only the beginning,” he said. “We will bring about a lifestyle that not only wants clean air, but that will also be brave to demand their rights.

“I’m not actually an enemy to the smokers, I’m not anti-smokers,” he added. “But I want them (smokers) to quit smoking.”

Meanwhile, Dzulkefly said enforcement efforts to support the nationwide smoking ban at all restaurants, open eateries, pubs, and clubs, has seen 36,979 eateries being inspected since the ban came into effect on January 1, with 21,617 compounds issued.

Of these notices, 466 notices were issued to restaurant owners that failed to put up a no-smoking ban on their premises, with 104 notices issued for providing smoking amenities such as ashtrays or shisha services, Dzulkefly said.

MOH said yesterday that over half a million ringgit in compounds on smoking violations were issued in the first five days of the new year.

Dzulkefly added that compounds are not issued on a whim, and that “discussions” are carried out with the offenders and over 2,000 MOH enforcement agents.

Those found smoking or vaping in prohibited areas may get an RM250 compound, or face a maximum RM10,000 fine or up to two years’ jail if brought to court. If they make payment within one month of the compound being issued, the fine is reduced to RM150.

Restaurant operators who fail to put up no-smoking signs, on the other hand, also face an RM250 compound, or risk a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or imprisonment of up to six months if prosecuted.

Smokers and restaurant operators who commit a second offence also get an RM250 compound, while third-time offenders will have to cough up RM350.

The new law has been in effect since January 1 last year, but smokers were given a “grace period” or 12 months, labelled by MOH as educational enforcement. Local councils have begun setting up smoking areas more than three metres away from eateries for smokers to light up.

Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin announced today that her ministry would provide funding to local councils nationwide to set up designated smoking areas in public, like in commercial areas or food courts.

Restaurants could also apply to local councils for approval to set up smaller designated smoking areas — with a canopy and ashtray — three metres from their premises that would be funded by businesses themselves.

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