GEORGE TOWN: The Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) today lauded the government’s move to ban cigarette smoking in eateries and told-off restaurant groups which are against the ban.
CAP president SM Mohamed Idris scoffed at the excuse given by the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association that if they were to tell smokers to smoke 10ft away from the eatery, they would have to smoke on the road and this might endanger their lives.
Idris said previously eatery groups had argued that banning cigarette sales would cause a spike in contraband cigarettes.
“This campaign by restaurant and coffee shop owners to empower smokers simply tramples on the rights of non-smokers and passive smokers.
“We would like to point out the objective of patronising an eatery is to eat, not to smoke. Non-smokers do not have to tolerate the 4,000 noxious chemicals found in tobacco smoke.
“Smoke does not respect physical boundaries, because if it does, smoke from the Indonesian forest fires would not have bothered Malaysia, as the smoke will be contained within Indonesia’s borders,” Idris said at a press conference today.
The government has announced that all forms of smoking, including vaping, would be banned at all eateries, hawker stalls and open-air shops from Jan 1. Among the restrictions is that smokers can only smoke at least 10ft from any eatery.
Idris said the trade associations were against the smoking ban simply because they stood to lose out on the “lucky draws and gifts” given by tobacco companies as an inducement to increase cigarette sales.
“They are merely parroting the tobacco industry. CAP wonders why eateries are more concerned about smoking rather than bettering their food quality and reducing their prices.
“The government should stop sales of cigarettes at all eateries, simply because it contains a Class C poison, which is nicotine,” he said.
The Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association, Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association and the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association protested against the government ban recently.
Their major concern is that it will lead to a drop in customers who smoke.
Idris revealed that government data and international studies had shown that the smoking trend was worrying, with more than a million smokers under the age of 10.
And most of the 4.7 million smokers in the country began their smoking habit before the age of 18, he added.
According to a fact sheet produced by CAP, it will cost the government RM4.7 billion to treat smoking-related diseases by 2025.
If a person earns RM3,000 a month, buying a pack of 20-stick cigarettes would cost a person RM510 a month, which could, in turn, buy 28 meals costing RM4.50 each for four people, according to the fact sheet.
CAP also said its research showed that an estimated 11,588.7 million sticks of cigarettes were sold here last year, as per data from the Tobacco Control Atlas, Asean region, Nov 2016.
It said the number of stick sold would be equivalent to 579.4 million packs of 20s’ cigarettes.
“If each pack was to be sold at RM17, the total value of consumption would be RM9.9 billion. This means Malaysian smokers burnt away 34% of the healthcare allocation of nearly RM29 billion in the 2019 Budget.”