The government has rejected a suggestion by restaurant operators who want to have a designated smoking area within their premises. (NSTP Archive)

ALOR SETAR: The government has rejected a suggestion by restaurant operators who want to have a designated smoking area within their premises.

The suggestion follows the government's announcement that all eateries would be declared smoke-free zones beginning Jan 1 next year.

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said they had receive the suggestion but could not consider it as public health was still their main priority.

He said, there are many ways for smokers to overcome their addiction, and such a suggestion was not the way.

He said the ministry will remain consistent in their decision to have more smoke-free areas which will now include open air eateries.

"Previously, the ban was only enforced at air-conditioned restaurants," he said, adding that smokers and restaurant operators found flouting the rule risk action taken against them.

Dr Lee informed that those who did not adhere to the ruling could face action under the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004, issued under the Food Act of 1983.

"This ban needs to implemented soon and it is hoped that it will reduce government expenditure on treatment due to cigarette smoke for patients," he said.

The Health Ministry perviously announced that all eateries nationwide would be cigarette smoke free zones from Jan 1 next year onwards, with the directive to be enforced at all eateries comprising restaurant, coffee shops and hawker stalls located along the roadside.