On the 1st of January 2019, an unprecedented smoking ban was implemented that involved all public eateries across the country. The ban prohibits smokers from lighting up in any restaurants and anywhere less than 3 meters (10 feet) away from the furthest object of that restaurant (chairs, tables, etc.). Making smoking in public spaces a lot harder to do than it was before. The ban was initially announced in late 2018 and according to the Ministry of Health, the ban is divided into two phases. The first phase refers to the education and warning phase and this phase span for the first 6 months of 2019. It is constructed to be the education and warning phase since no punishment will be given but rather stern issuance of warning from health officers. The second phase is the phase where the ban takes full effect. If a smoker is caught lighting up within 3 meters of any public eateries, they could be fined a maximum of RM10,000 or jailed for up to two years.
A breath of fresh air
The ban received an overwhelming support from the public as evident from the abundance of praises on social media. It resonated well the public who can no longer tolerate the sight of people smoking in public spaces. The ban attempts to protect citizens, especially those who do not want anything to do with cigarettes or the threat of passive smoking. According to WHO, out of the 8 million annual deaths worldwide from tobacco, 1.2 million came from passive smokers. The push to further protect people from exposure to secondhand smoke came from scientific studies which concluded that there’s no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Implementing the ban ushered in a new breath of fresh air for diners, especially those who do not smoke or those who will suffer from acute exacerbation of underlying respiratory problems such as bronchial asthma when exposed to tobacco smoke.
Smoking in public just got a lot harder
Another important reason as to why this is seen as a win by society is because it finally empowers the public and health officers to take stern action against those who are smoking in public spaces. Technically, smoking has been banned from public places such as hospital/clinic, universities, shopping complexes, government premises and many more for many years, but there seems to be little to no enforcement before this. As a result, smokers have been ignoring the rules, and the public as well as health officers felt out of place and lacking in support when trying to voice concerns or take actions against violators. Now, the public can also participate in the battle for fresh air as there’s a WhatsApp channel and other platforms being set up to allow the public to report any incidents of smokers disrespecting the ban. The long term laxity in terms of enforcement before this has done very little to improve the statistics on morbidity and mortality related to tobacco. With stricter enforcement and more support by the ministry, the trust and faith that society has towards achieving cleaner air is now restored. The nation-wide ban will very soon, make smoking in public spaces a thing of the past.
Take part in the battle for cleaner lungs! We all have a collective duty in ensuring that others, especially the vulnerable ones, can have a peace of mind (and lungs) the next time they’re heading out.
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