Smokers’ rights group backs government study on Japan's smoking zone

Kenneth Tee
Protem chairman of Pertahankan Hak Perokok Mohd Hanizam Yunus speaks to Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur January 3, 2019. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

AMPANG, Jan 3 ― A newly formed group for smokers’ rights has lauded the government’s plan to emulate Japan’s designated public smoking areas after a nationwide smoking ban started on Tuesday.

“This is very good move. That is what that should have been done all along,” Mohd Hanizam Yunus, the protem chairman of the group, Pertahankan Hak Perokok (PHP), told Malay Mail today.

Earlier today, Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin said her ministry will look at how Japan regulates smoking through designated smoking areas in public, amid complaints from smokers that they had no proper place to light up.

She hoped the ministry will draw up a standard operating procedure (SOP) in six months.

Many parks, train stations, convenience stores, shopping centres, and hospitals in Japan ― which used to have a strong smoking culture ― have designated smoking zones right outside that are equipped with ashtrays. Enclosed ones reportedly have air-conditioning and air filters.

Meanwhile, Mohd Hanizam said he was disappointed with Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad's 'see you in court' remark after his groups filed an application for a judicial review against the ban.

“It is quite arrogant to make such a response. ‘See you in court’...come on lah. We want to see you discuss things with Malaysian stakeholders instead,” Mohd Hanizam said.

The protem committee filed the court application on Monday, naming the Health Ministry of Malaysia as the sole respondent.

The group is seeking a declaration that the ban is unconstitutional and it also sought an injunction against the ministry from enforcing the smoking ban.

Mohd Hanizam reiterated that the group was not against the government and smokers have been accommodating the ministry's directive.

Starting on Tuesday, smoking in public places such as restaurants, including those in open air, has been banned.

However, the Health Ministry is giving a six-month grace period to restaurant operators and their patrons and will start enforcing the law only from July 1.

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.

For the offence of failing to ensure that nobody smokes and for providing smoking facilities, they can be fined up to RM5,000 or imprisoned up to one year.

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