The issue of smoking has been a big deal in Singapore recently, with certain amendments passed by Parliament to the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act. However, Singapore is not the only Southeast Asian country changing its smoking policies. Neighbor Malaysia’s Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye announced a new smoking ban inside all restaurants and in open hawker centres and roadside stalls, which will take effect in 2019.
Last month, a suggestion by a Member of Parliament to ban smoking inside one’s own HDB flat to protect neighbors from secondhand smoke caused a massive uproar among Singaporeans. Smokers were offended, naturally, but other citizens were also upset about the invasion of privacy.
Instead, Parliament passed amendments to the Smoking (Prohibition in Certain Places) Act that gave authority to National Environment Agency (NEA) officers to enter non-smoking environments to investigate smoking-related incidents.
Malaysia has also turned its focus on smoking and the health concerns that come along with it.
Deputy Minister Lee said that Malaysia’s smoking ban, which is set to begin in 2019, will apply to 1) air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned restaurants, 2) air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned coffee shops, 3) open hawker centres and 4) roadside eateries and stalls.
Smokers found guilty of violating the new smoking ban will have to pay a fine of RM10,000 while the establishments where smokers are caught will be given a smaller fine of RM2,500.
Malaysia’s current Tobacco Control Laws prohibit smoking in all government facilities and public spaces such as offices, schools, hospitals, public transportation, public elevators and public toilets.
Deputy Minister Lee explained that the Ministry of Health aims to provide all Malaysians with a healthier dining environment, free of smoke.
Local medical organizations have given their support to the Malaysian government and welcomed the smoking ban, which will help reduce the adverse effects of secondhand smoke to non-smokers and improve the overall well-being of Malaysian citizens.
“There is no greater modifiable risk factor than tobacco, and by implementing measures to reduce the impact of secondhand smoke, the government will go a long way in reducing the nation’s healthcare costs while increasing the wellbeing of the rakyat,” read an official statement by a group of 30 medical organizations, which was released on October 11.
The group also highlighted secondhand smoke’s impact on non-smokers, especially pregnant women and children.
Some of the health risks non-smokers can be affected with include worsening asthma attacks, respiratory and ear infections.
Even more seriously, secondhand smoke could also result in a greater rate of premature babies, birth defects or even sudden infant death syndrome.
Restaurants and eateries are strategic places for the implementation of the smoking ban as these areas usually attract families and children.
Malaysia’s new smoking ban by the Ministry of Health displays a firm commitment to the nation’s public health as well as to the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which is “an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health” that was developed in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic.