Think tank: No-smoking zones pointless without enforcement

Think tank chief Azrul Khalib says the government’s campaign to discourage smoking will not work without enforcement in no-smoking zones.

GEORGE TOWN: A think tank has warned that the federal government’s move to gazette more no-smoking zones in the country will not achieve the desired change due to lack of enforcement.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy CEO Azrul Khalib said there was little, if any, enforcement of the smoking ban in areas already gazetted under the law such as restaurants and public parks.

He added that it was not enough just to put up signs and notices in these areas as part of the government’s move towards a smoke-free nation.

“Whether or not more public spaces will be gazetted as no-smoking zones is not the real issue.

“Unless there is better enforcement, gazetting new areas as no-smoking zones or increasing the severity of penalties will have very little effect.

“Most importantly, people must choose to stop smoking,” he told FMT when contacted.

Azrul was asked to comment on remarks by Deputy Health Minister Dr Hilmi Yahaya that more public spaces will be gazetted as no-smoking zones to ensure that the country can achieve its target of becoming a smoke-free nation by 2045.

Hilmi said aside from wanting to reduce the number of smokers in the country to less than 5% of the population, the government wanted to ensure that all public areas in the country were free from any form of smoking activity.

“This is in line with the key principle of Article Eight in the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Control Framework Convention (FCTC), where all public places are no-smoking zones,” he told the Dewan Rakyat earlier.

However, Azrul said it had become the norm for smokers to ignore the ban imposed in designated areas.

“It has come to a point that even the people around these smokers choose not to confront them.

“Despite the discomfort, people are reluctant to make a scene as they do not wish to be embarrassed.”

Azrul added that ultimately, the public must do its part to help the authorities.

“The authorities cannot be in every restaurant, mall, office, public space, park and government facility.”

Hilmi had reportedly said that so far, there were 23 types of areas gazetted as no-smoking zones under Regulation 11 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004, and other areas gazetted under Regulation 22 of the same regulation, under the Smoke-Free City programme.