Our customers fading away after smoking ban, restaurant owners say

Empty tables at a restaurant in the Klang Valley. Restaurant owners claim their businesses have taken a hit following a smoking ban that came into effect on Jan 1, 2019.

PETALING JAYA: Restaurant owners have questioned a claim by the health minister that the ban on smoking at eateries nationwide has led to an increase in business.

They say the ban, which came into effect on Jan 1, has in fact adversely affected their revenue following a drop in customers.

Malaysia Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors’ General Association president Ho Su Mong said many smokers were staying away for fear of being caught by enforcement officers.

“About 20-30% of our customers smoke and about half of them are not turning up after the ban was enforced,” Hu told FMT.

Health Minister Dzulkelfy Ahmad reportedly said the ban had helped some restaurants increase their revenue.

“We have also received evidence that some restaurants have increased their revenue because patrons are bringing their families to these places. Last time they wouldn’t bring their kids because of the cigarette smoke,” he was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail.

Dzulkefly, who questioned claims of a drop in revenue after the smoking ban, said non-smokers were now able to enjoy their meals.

But Ho said most eateries looked “dead and quiet” after the ban, adding that he hoped the lull was only temporary.

Meanwhile, the Indian Restaurant Operators Association (Prisma) said its members had complained about a drop in business following the smoking ban.

“It has greatly affected the restaurants, especially the small shops,” said Prisma president P Muthusamy, adding that nearly half of smoking customers have not been frequenting restaurants.

He said he would compile the complaints from owners to be presented to the government.

“So far, the ban has not helped our business at all,” he told FMT.

The ban on smoking applies to all types of eateries including open-air restaurants.

The government said it might extend the ban to launderettes and hotels.

The health ministry has tasked thousands of officers nationwide to enforce the ban, but gave a six-month grace period before offenders are fined.

Restaurant owners who allow customers to smoke in their premises will also be punished under the new law.