Over 5,000 officers ready to enforce smoking ban, says health ministry

Starting Jan 1, 2019, restaurant customers caught smoking can be fined a maximum of RM10,000 or jailed up to two years.

PETALING JAYA: The Ministry of Health is not increasing the number of enforcement staff or funding to enforce the ban on smoking at all restaurants nationwide when it comes into effect on Jan 1.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the existing 5,008 health officers and assistant health officers of the ministry would include the monitoring of eateries as part of their duty.

“Their job is not just enforcing the smoking ban. They are also tasked with other aspects such as checking cleanliness, Aedes breeding grounds and so on,” he told FMT.

He said no additional fund allocation would be made for this.

He acknowledged the criticism from restaurant operators and others over the ban, adding that the government had conducted dialogue sessions with eatery operators.

“At the end of the day, this is something that we have to carry out to protect the right of non-smokers to have a smoke-free environment. In the long run, we want to control the number of smokers in the country,” he said.

He said to date more than 100 restaurants nationwide had voluntarily enforced the no-smoking zone.

On Dec 17, Lee told Parliament that the government would give a six-month grace period after the ban on smoking in restaurants comes into effect on Jan 1.

He said warnings would be issued by the ministry’s health officers to offenders in an attempt to educate them, before penalising them.

Lee said restaurant owners must display no-smoking signs and remove ashtrays from within the restaurant.

He said restaurant operators could reach the health ministry via a 24-hour hotline at 03-88924530 should they face troublesome customers.

Customers caught smoking in eateries can be fined a maximum of RM10,000 or jailed up to two years, while restaurant operators who fail to put up no-smoking signs face a fine not exceeding RM3,000 or jail time of up to six months.