Grace period for smoking ban at eateries extended by 6 months

Health ministry officials have been hauling up smokers at restaurants to issue warning letters and telling them to smoke 10 feet from eateries.

PETALING JAYA: The health ministry has decided to extend by another six months the grace period for the smoking ban before punitive action is taken.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said today the extension was to raise awareness and knowledge about the dangers of smoking.

The no-smoking rule at restaurants came into effect on Jan 1 and the ministry had said it will give six months for the public to follow the rule before summonses are issued from July 1.

Dzulkefly said the grace period will be extended by another six months until end-December 2019.

He said the decision was made following a steering committee meeting he chaired on April 16 with 10 other ministries and an NGO representative.

The health ministry has asked for extra funds from the Cabinet so that smokers can be assisted better with the mQuit programme — an integrated “quit smoking” service. About 580 people are now using this service.

Under the law, smokers can only smoke 10 feet (3m) away from any restaurant. Offenders can be jailed up to two years and fined RM10,000.

Restaurant owners can also be fined RM5,000 or six months’ jail if they allow smoking at their premises.

Dzulkefly said his ministry was aware there are still smokers who lit up at places designated as no-smoking areas.

He said a survey by the National Cancer Society from April 1 to April 17, involving 173 eateries in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, found that most of them were observing the ban.

About 98% (170 eateries) did not provide ashtrays, according to the survey.

About 60% (104 eateries) were totally free from any “smoking activity” while 40% (69 eateries) didn’t have more than three smokers present on their premises.

However, the survey found that 76% (131 eateries) did not have a “clear” no-smoking sign in place.