Don’t let politics interfere, Dzulkefly says on smoking ban

PETALING JAYA: Former minister Dzulkefly Ahmad today thanked Deputy Health Minister Dr Noor Azmi Ghazali for affirming the ban on smoking at eateries, saying the matter of health should not be influenced by partisan politics.

Speaking to FMT, Dzulkefly who was health minister under the Pakatan Harapan government, said Noor Azmi had strongly supported the move for the ban during its debate in Parliament.

He added that he does not expect this to change.

“He should be aware that annually, more than 27,000 die because of tobacco-related diseases, and we would certainly want to reduce the incidence of passive smoking, especially in public eateries.”

Reiterating that health is a social imperative that should not be influenced by politics, he said a government that compromises on the delivery of health needs would be “booted out” by the people.

Noor Azmi recently said the ministry had not stopped enforcing the smoking ban at eateries, and that the campaign would be enhanced to ensure public health and well-being.

On complaints that many were now smoking again at eateries, he said there had been a reduction in enforcement as more attention was being focused on efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.

“Anyway, food premises were not open (and customers were not allowed to dine in) over the past three months,” he added.

Dzulkefly said he hoped Health Minister Dr Adham Baba would also publicly state his support for the ban, which was a health ministry initiative backed by members of the public health system as well as NGOs.

He said one of his goals during his tenure as minister had been to address the rising trend of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidaemia.

While acknowledging the variety of risk factors for NCDs, he said unhealthy practices such as smoking, obesity, harmful consumption of alcohol and a lack of exercise were among the top aggravating factors.

The ban on smoking at eateries and the requirement for smokers to to maintain a three-metre distance from food premises were implemented during Dzulkefly’s 21-month stint as health minister.

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