KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 11 — Malaysia has seen an 8.5 percentage point drop in cigarette smoke exposure to passive smokers at open-air eateries from 2015 to 2019, the year when smoking was prohibited in those premises.
“The National Health and Morbidity Survey found that there was a decrease in the percentage of cigarette smoke exposure to passive smokers in open food premises from 51.9 per cent in 2015 to 43.4 per cent in 2019,” Health Minister Dr Adham Baba said in his written Dewan Negara reply on September 7.
He was responding to a question by Senator Kesavadas Achyuthan Nair (DAP) who asked the health minister to state the extent of the effectiveness of the government’s smoking ban campaign at food premises.
“The National Cancer Society of Malaysia’s (NCSM) 2019 study of compliance towards the smoking ban found that 60 per cent of shops visited were free from smoking activities and almost all of them, 98 per cent of premise owners have complied with Regulation 12 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 by not providing any facilities for smoking,” Dr Adham told Kesavadas.
Dr Adham also pointed out that a 2017 study by the public complaints bureau from the Prime Minister’s Department found that 86 per cent of the community supported the idea of expanding the no-smoking rule in food premises which was then gazetted in 2018.
Dr Adham said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has gazetted all food promises as a non-smoking place since 2013, starting with air-conditioned dining premises under Regulation 11(1)(d) of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.
It was then expanded to all food premises, including open-air food premises, under the same rule as amended in 2018 to protect passive smokers from the dangers of cigarette smoke in public places.
The then-Pakatan Harapan administration had gazetted all eateries, including open-air establishments, from January 2019 as smoke-free areas. Strict enforcement of the smoking ban at all eateries came into force in January 2020.
Dr Adham said smoking misconduct rates at food premises are continuously monitored through enforcement activities, as well as through complaints received by the smoking complaint hotline.
“From January 1 this year, the number of smoking offence notices at food premises issued has decreased from 4,218 notices in January to 4,165 in February, and 1,224 notices in July 2020,” Dr Adham told Kesavadas.
The government implemented a strict lockdown from March 18 to May 3 amid the Covid-19 outbreak, which may partially explain the drop in smoking offences at eateries as dine-in services were not allowed during the Movement Control Order (MCO). The Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), which opened up most businesses, was implemented since June 10.
“Smoking complaints were high at the beginning of the gazettement, but there has been a decrease in complaints: 4,131 complaints in January to 2,352 complaints in February, and 961 in July 2020,” Dr Adham said, highlighting the decline in the rate of misconduct.
Those found smoking or vaping in prohibited areas may get a RM250 compound, or face a maximum of RM10,000 or up to two years’ jail if prosecuted, while restaurant owners who fail to put up no-smoking signs may also be slapped with a RM250 compound or may face a fine not exceeding RM3,000, or imprisonment of up to six months if brought to court.
The health minister said that currently, all theatres and entertainment centres except for pubs and casinos fall under the no-smoking places under Regulation 11(1)(a) of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.
“MOH is committed to expanding the ban on smoking in pubs and casinos through the amendment of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004 in accordance with the principle of Article 8, WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), that no one is exempted from exposure to the dangers of the smoke from smoking in public places.”