Court affirms ban on smoking at public eateries

Senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan (3rd from right), representing the health ministry, outside the High Court in Kuala Lumpur today.

KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here today dismissed the bid by a smokers group for a review of the government’s decision to implement a ban on smoking at public eateries.

Judge Mariana Yahya said the group’s claim that its rights had been violated due to the ban was misconceived.

“They claimed that the ban was against their rights under the Federal Constitution.

“However, they can still smoke outside, three metres or 10 feet outside the premises. There are no laws forbidding the applicant group from smoking in total,” she said.

Mariana, in her judgment, also said there was nothing new about Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad’s decision to ban smoking in places like restaurants.

“Since 1993, the government has gazetted 23 areas such as hospitals, government offices and petrol stations as smoke-free areas.

“For the applicants to complain that the smoking ban, which was extended to restaurants, is discriminatory, does not arise,” she said.

Members of an anti-smoking group with senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan (4th from left) outside the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

She added that the smokers group had in its affidavit acknowledged these smoke-free zones.

She also said Dzulkefly had the power to exercise his duty under the Food Act to extend the smoking ban to restaurants and amend the relevant by-laws for this purpose.

The court made no order as to costs.

The group, which calls itself “Defenders of Smokers’ Rights”, had sought to challenge the government’s decision on the ban.

Its members claimed the ban violates their constitutional rights, arguing that smoking is not a crime under Malaysian law.

Under the ban imposed on Jan 1, patrons as well as owners of premises who fail to implement the rule can be fined up to RM10,000 or sentenced to three years in jail.

The government subsequently allowed an extension of time for implementation of the ban and suspended punitive action against offenders until year-end.

Dzulkefly said the extension was to raise awareness and knowledge about the dangers of smoking.

Lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla, who represented the group, said they would appeal against today’s decision.

The health ministry was represented by senior federal counsel Shamsul Bolhassan.