GEORGE TOWN: Coffee shop and restaurant operators in the northern region have rejected the government’s move to ban smoking at their outlets beginning Jan 1.
They were particularly agitated by the government’s suggestion that smokers be made to puff 10 feet away from eateries, calling it a silly idea.
Group spokesperson Toon Koon Ku said the government had failed to take into account that most eateries are located in terraced shophouses, and if smokers have to walk 10 feet away for their puff, they will end up at another eatery.
“The move is too extreme and will result in a loss of income, as well as create unfair penalties and inconvenience to business owners,” the Foochow Coffee Shop Owners Association president said.
Toon said the federal government ought to allow eateries to have designated smoking areas within their premises for the sake of convenience.
He said the Penang government, while declaring George Town’s heritage site a smoke-free zone, had created 30 smoking spaces within the site.
“We laud the Penang government’s efforts to create smoking spaces. We hope the state’s pragmatic mentality will rub off on the federal authorities.
“We support the intention to create a healthy society but, at the same time, we believe a win-win approach can be reached,” he added.
Toon said instead of outright banning smoking at eateries, the government should consider categorising restaurants as “smoking or non-smoking” to allow consumers to make a choice.
Meanwhile, Federation of Sundry Goods Merchants Associations of Malaysia assistant secretary-general Tan Cheng Eow said the authorities must respect human rights in allowing a person to smoke.
He said rather than bulldozing eateries on the smoking ban, the government ought to discuss the best solution with operators for mutual benefit.
“You are doing this just to please the World Health Organisation. Why not try to please the small traders like us who had voted you in?”
Representatives of the Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association and Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association were also present at the gathering at a restaurant in Pangkor Road today.
They were joined by representatives of the Penang and Province Wellesley Cafe Association, and Persatuan Tuan-Tuan Empunya Kedai dan Kedai Makanan Seberang Perai.