Smoking Ban in Malaysia: A 3-Metre Walk for Pleasure Anyone?

A No Smoking / Vaping sign seen in a shop

Smokers in Malaysia are facing a new regulation that may change their lifestyle for the better

As of 1st January 2019, a nationwide smoking ban was implemented, prohibiting smokers from getting their fix in eateries. Smoking is only allowed 3 metres away from such premises and offenders can find themselves fined up to RM10,000 or jailed for not more than two years. Restaurateurs can find themselves penalised as well (fined up to RM5,000 or imprisonment up to one year) if found providing smoking facilities to customers or have failed in preventing customers from smoking.

However, it is noteworthy that as the ban is in motion, there is a 6-month grace period aimed to spur awareness and educate smokers which entails only warnings to be given to first-time offenders instead of penalties.

This movement is believed to be the starting point to propel Malaysia into becoming a smoke-free country by 2045 — an objective that was set into writing in 2005 with the World Health Organisation Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

Is it a far-fetched dream? Personally, I believe that it is possible if drastic measures with extensive planning are taken. If executions are made in a desultory manner, however, it may not only result in failure to address the conundrum, but to exacerbate it.

For most smokers, if not all, post-mealtime cigarettes are ones that are indispensable, much alike the first cigarette of the day or the cigarettes that are meant to be consumed when these smokers are perched on the Porcelain Throne! Though smokers are not prohibited from practicing their old habits, but this could be considered as a form of discouragement due to the extra, yet meagre efforts required to attain that fix.

On the flip side, this ban is favourable to the non-smokers as diners can finally have their meals without it being complemented by nicotine-added smoke as a side dish as well as reducing exposure of second-hand smoke towards children. Aside from that, this might impede the likeliness of children adopting smoking habits. Some may argue that this ban will adversely affect the profitability of certain eateries that have been long branded as smokers’ haven but with only 23% of Malaysians being smokers, I doubt that it will affect the turnover of these joints.

As frustrating as it is for smokers to admit, the truth is out there that smoking harms one’s health, so we can all agree that this regulation is instrumental for the welfare of Malaysians — the sacrifice of short-term pleasures for long-term longevity. However, there is an indistinct problem that is somewhat worrisome which is littering. Bins and ashtrays are not provided in most areas so what do you think smokers will do with their cigarette butts?
Also, unlike Japan, not all smokers are equipped with the culture of carrying portable ashtrays which possibly mean that there may be more butts on the grounds of business compounds that operate near these eateries. Evidently before this, some smokers do not even use ashtrays despite it being provided and this current situation may be seen to enable them to become irresponsible litter-bugs.

On a side note for vapers, rejoice and gloat whilst you can as currently, there is no law against vape containing non-nicotine juices!