Lights out soon for cigarettes: What about smoke free homes?

Malaysians have their say about taking the smoking ban beyond just open-air eateries.

No more lighting up at public areas in Malaysia? © Carlos Paes/ Freeimages

The news of the Health Ministry planning to gazette all open-air restaurants as non-smoking areas has left smokers in a huff, with non-smokers breathing a sigh of relief. You can tell us which side of the fence you’re on too by taking our poll below.

If you haven’t the faintest idea what we’re talking about, allow us to bring you up to speed.

You see, the Health Ministry is planning on a smoking ban, which will make lighting up a cigarette at hawker centres, mamaks or alfresco restaurants illegal by December.  The move is part of the Ministry’s plan to encourage smokers to kick the habit, and to also protect the public from second-hand smoke. There’s also a distinctive possibility that if this rule is enforced, it could also pave the way for smoking to be banned in homes too.

Needless to say, the proposed ruling has proved divisive between the smoking and non-smoking communities.

Light up or light out?: Malaysians speak up

  • Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye has admitted that the ban has faced some reservations from industry peers, coffee shops and restaurant owners.
  • Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (PRESMA) President Ayoob Khan Muhamad Yakub, admitted that although he agrees that smoking is bad, restaurant owners could also not chase away customers who want to light up.
  • A group of 30 Malaysian medical organisations are fully supportive of the idea and have expressed their support in an open letter to the Health Ministry.
  • Most of the general public are also in agreement with the idea as studies have shown that non-smokers suffer effects and illnesses as a direct result of second-hand smoke.

Some countries are already planning to eradicate smoking. © Adam H./ Freeimages

Stubbing out smoking for good: Cities, states and countries that lead the way

Although the Health Ministry’s plan may seem controversial, the smoking ban is not only confined to within our borders and was not introduced in recent times as well. For example:

  • Ireland was one of the first countries in the world to ban smoking, beginning in restaurant kitchens in 1988 before subsequently rolling out an outright ban in all public spaces in 2004. The move paved the way for the rest of Europe to follow suit.
  • In Asia, Japan recently passed an anti-smoking law, which looks to ban smoking in most Tokyo’s bars and restaurants in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics.
  • In Penang, according to a recent report in The Star, Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow has also proposed a smoking ban in all public areas, which is part of the plan to make the state smoke-free in the next five years.
  • Neighbouring Singapore has enforced smoking prohibition since 1970 as part of its efforts to promote a smoke-free lifestyle in the Garden City. In 2007, the country extended its smoking ban to entertainment spots, including pubs, bars, lounges, dance clubs as well as nightclubs and it may not end there.

Will smoking be banned at residential homes too? © Elvis Santana/ Freeimages

Smoke-free homes

On 10 September this year, the Singapore Parliament passed amendments to the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act, allowing the Government to designate more non-smoking zones and give officers more enforcement powers.

Singapore Members of Parliament (MP) have also urged the authorities to curb smoking in homes, due to the rising complaints from residents about second-hand smoke wafting into their homes. Some parties are also reportedly looking to call for a total smoking ban at HDB flats, which isn’t shocking to say the least if you’re from the United States or Finland.

At the end of July this year, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development enforced a ban on smoking in public housing facilities. The ban, which was passed in 2016, prohibits the use of use of cigarettes, cigars and tobacco pipes in all public housing units and common areas, as well as outdoor areas within 25 feet (7.6 metres) of public housing grounds.

Finland, which has one of the toughest smoking laws in the world, wants to eradicate smoking completely in the country by as early as 2030. In 2017, the government passed a bill allowing housing companies and associations to apply for a municipal permit to ban smoking on balconies and yards belonging to the housing complex.

Although Malaysia is still some ways away compared to the rest of the world in eradicating smoking, the recent proposal by the Health Minister is a decisive step that could expand the ban into our homes in the near future too.

Do you agree with the Health Ministry’s plan to ban smoking at open-air public eateries? Should the Health Ministry look into banning smoking in homes or residential common zones like parks and the swimming pool area? Or do you think that the smoking ban is too harsh on smokers as well as businesses?

Let us know below.

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