Najib speaks up for smokers, proposes time-regulated smoking ban

Raynore Mering
A no-smoking sign is seen at a restaurant in George Town January 7, 2019. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 9 — From addressing the country’s economic woes to the burdens of consumers, Datuk Seri Najib Razak has now turned his attention to smokers who are feeling the weight of the recent ban on smoking in eateries nationwide.

The former prime minister said on his Facebook page tonight that while he supported the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government’s aim to reduce the number of smokers in the country, it should also respect people who choose to smoke and are not ready to quit.

Pointing out that he is not a smoker, Najib said during his administration, a ban on smoking in offices, air-conditioned restaurants and hotels was imposed in 2016 but at the same time, some flexibility was accorded by allowing businesses to have smoking sections.

Najib said the PH government has now removed this concession and such a strict ruling will have an impact on the tourism as well as food industry.

“If the government’s concern is for children being exposed to smoke, perhaps it can consider introducing a time restriction on smoking outside a premises? Maybe exemption can be given to smoking in a specified area after 9pm.

However, he said the ban should still be observed inside a premises, although it is not air-conditioned so that non-smokers can enjoy their food and drinks.

Najib said there are many ways to encourage the people to quit smoking, including holding health campaigns and introducing the nicotine patch.

“But a smoking ban that is too draconian is unfair to those who choose to smoke and is also unfair to those in the food and beverage sector and in tourism.

“Now even on the five-footway, smoking is not allowed. If smoking on five-footway is prohibited, can they only smoke in the middle of the road and wait to be run over by a bus?” he wrote.

Although the smoking ban was implemented on January 1, the government has given a six-month period for smokers and businesses to adjust to it.

When it is fully enforced, anyone found guilty of smoking in prohibited areas can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years under Regulation 11 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.

Premises or vehicle owners and operators who fail to display the smoking ban signage can be fined up to RM3,000 or jailed up to six months under Regulation 12 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations 2004.

The ban has triggered much criticism from among smokers who claim that the rules were unclear.

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