LETTER | Malaysia as a party to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is committed to ensuring that all are protected against exposure to tobacco smoke in public areas.
The smoking ban began in 1982 with the issuance of a government circular banning smoking in all government premises.
The Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 1993 banned smoking in air-conditioned restaurants with 50 percent of the space allowed for smoking under certain conditions.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1994 Regulation on Indoor Air Quality requires employers to ensure all workplaces are safe, including from tobacco smoke. All restaurants are workplaces and covered under this regulation.
In 1997, Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 1993 was amended, with 50 percent of space for smoking abolished and all air-conditioned restaurants made totally smoke-free.
The Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 2004 replaced Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 1997 with all air-conditioned restaurants maintained as smoke-free.
The Food Safety and Hygiene Regulation 2009 under the Food Act 1983 prohibits all food handlers such as cooks, waiters et cetera from smoking while working to prevent food contamination.
In December 2018, the Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 2004 was amended to ban smoking in all eateries indoors as well as outdoors.
However, the 2018 amendment bans patron of eateries from smoking but there are other laws already in place to ban smoking at all workplaces. It is to expand the smoke-free areas to protect the public from exposure to tobacco smoke.
Generally, non-smokers and smokers support this initiative. We observe that in majority eateries the smoking ban is observed. There are food outlets at outlying areas experiencing “stubborn” smokers still smoking against the advice of an outlet's operator.
While there should be increased enforcement but the public needs to play its role in advising those smokers who light up within eateries.
The area limits to the smoking ban need to be highlighted - in premises the limit is three metres from the roof edge of the premise - while for open-air eateries three metres from the last (outer) chair.
In Kuala Lumpur, Control of Tobacco Products Regulation 2004 amendment in 2017 bans smoking under all roofed walkways which include all covered five-foot ways along the shops within Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur. Again, the limit extends three metres from the roof edge.
All habits, including bad and ugly ones, are difficult to change. The smoking habit that results in 20,000 deaths a year in Malaysia must be reduced and stopped. Malaysia targets to reduce it to 15 percent smoking prevalence by 2025 and tobacco endgame (<5.0 percent) by 2045. With smoking prevalence at 23 percent currently, the extension of no smoking in public areas should be enforced and respected by all without any more "alasan" (excuses).
The writer is the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations (Fomca) coordinator of the Tobacco Control / @SmokeFreeMY Initiative.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.