Malaysia enforced a nationwide smoking ban on all restaurants, including public and open-air eateries on Tuesday, which has garnered mixed reactions from smokers and restaurant owners.
From the new year, both smokers and restaurant owners who do not comply with the anti-smoking law in the country may face heavy government penalties. Anyone caught smoking in eateries can be fined up to $2,500 or face up to two years in jail.
While most restaurants in Malaysia have already enforced the smoking ban, open-air eateries, coffee shops and “mamak-style” Indian restaurants, which are popular among Malaysians, are still lagging behind.
Many restaurant owners in Kuala Lumpur still allow their customers to smoke in their open-air areas.
On Tuesday, smokers could be seen huddling in parking lots, back alleys, bus and taxi stops, and even loading bay areas at shopping malls.
Restaurant owner Daljit Kumar Singh, who runs an Indian restaurant in Brickfields, told Arab News that he lauded the ban and views it as a step in the right direction. “I do not allow my customers to smoke in my restaurant,” he said. “If they want to smoke, they have to smoke outside of the restaurant,” said Singh, adding that smokers do not have the right to smoke in public, as second-hand smokers are exposed to harm.
“I have a friend who owns a bar and he also enforced a zero-smoking policy at the bar or inside the lounge,” he said. He believed the ban is not just good for health, but also good for business, as it brings in more health-conscious clientele.
However, several restaurant owners and smokers have reacted negatively towards the anti-smoking law. In the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the smoking ban has been put on hold due to lobbying from local coffeeshop groups.
One newly formed rights group that calls themselves the “defenders of smokers” group had filed a judicial review against Malaysia’s Health Ministry to overturn the ban and claimed that the ban was “against their constitutional rights,” according to local media reports.
Meanwhile, restaurant operators are mandated to place no-smoking signs in their premises or risk facing a fine of $726, as well as up to six months in jail. Restaurant owners that allow smoking at their eateries can be slapped with a fine of $1210 or a six-month jail term.
One smoker told Arab News her concerns about the ban.
“What really worries me are the legal implications of the ban because it criminalizes smoking in public,” Kuala Lumpur-based Maryam told Arab News. As a smoker, she said she tries to be mindful of others.
“Smoking is definitely not a fundamental human right but a prevalent cultural norm,” she said. “I think smoking advocates should focus their efforts on challenging the criminalization aspect of the ban.”
As a young professional, Asyraf told Arab News that the ban is a good initiative despite being a smoker himself. “I smoke a lot only when I am socializing, but I do not really smoke at home,” he said, adding that the policy may push him to quit smoking in the future.
“Some may feel something is missing when hanging out with friends, but this is just temporary. Once you get used to it, it may not be an issue anymore.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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