IPOH: The Health Ministry has urged members of the public to act as its ‘eyes and ears’ when the smoking ban at all restaurants and eateries is fully enforced nationwide on Jan 1 next year.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the public can lodge their complaints directly to the ministry via its hotline at 03-8892 4530.
“During this enforcement period, it’s important that this is not done just by the ministry but also with the cooperation of the public.
“The government is widening the scope of non-smoking zones not just to bring down the numbers of smokers but to also protect the rights of those who do not smoke so that they will not be exposed to secondhand smoke, and protect their health,” he said.
He was speaking to reporters after attending a lunch session with the Perak Chinese Schools Council Committee on Sunday.
Dr Lee said the ministry’s enforcement drive in the first six months will lean more towards advising stubborn smokers. However, he noted that this does not mean that smokers should regard the ban lightly.
Asked if the ministry’s 5,000-strong enforcement team is enough to tackle the ruling, Dr Lee said the ministry will strategise the deployment of its officers nationwide. He said stern enforcement will take place after six months via regular patrols and with help from the public.
“We will arrange the deployment of our enforcement officers nationwide. In the first six months, we need to increase enforcement efforts.
“However, enforcement action in these six months will focus on educating the public and restaurant owners so that they are aware of the ruling and hopefully, they will respect the ban.
“After six months, there will be patrols to check on the smoking ban and the public can call the ministry hotline if they see people breaking the law,” he said.
Asked if restaurant operators can designate smoking zones within their premises, Dr Lee said it is possible but these smoking zones must be built three metres away from the dining area.
“It must be at a distance of three meters from the dining area and premises. This means that even if the operators want to, they cannot build a smoking zone in their restaurant. But if they set it up three metres away, then the ministry will not be able to take action.”