Health ministry to meet Facebook over complaints that hotline is blocked

The smoking ban was imposed on Jan 1, with fines of up to RM10,000 or three years’ jail imposed on customers as well as premise owners who fail to implement the ruling.

PETALING JAYA: The health ministry will meet Facebook as soon as possible after WhatsApp — a messaging platform it owns — blocked a public hotline set up to facilitate citizens’ complaints on the smoking ban at public places.

Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said based on information he received, the hotline was blocked after WhatsApp received a complaint that it contravened its terms and conditions.

“The ministry will meet with Facebook as soon as possible to resolve the matter,” he said in a statement.

Earlier today, it was reported that messages sent to the number 60108608949 were not going through, with no “double tick” sign on the app to indicate that they had been received.

The ministry’s hotline allows the public to report those who light up in public places, including closed and open-air eateries, which have been declared as no-smoking zones.

Members of the public were told to accompany their complaints with photographs of smokers in the act and the location of the offence.

The smoking ban was imposed on Jan 1, with fines of up to RM10,000 or three years’ jail imposed on patrons as well as premise owners who failed to implement the ruling.

Smokers are now only allowed to smoke 3m away from any restaurant.

A six-month grace period, ending next month, to suspend punishment on offenders has been further extended to the year-end.