Things Malaysia gets wrong about the smoking ban

A family dinner last weekend coined a new phrase – “heading three metres out” – a term now used for going out for a smoke. For those not in the know, Malaysia has now banned smoking at all eateries altogether, open air or indoors, even roadside stalls.

The distance highlighted in the regulations now pulled into effect is 3 metres from any such establishment – which is quite odd, really.

That said, there is a lot that Malaysia is getting wrong about this ban, so here’s a list.

  1. No designated smoking areas
    1. Biggest problem of all, really. While restaurateurs have in fact abided by the non-smoking law set by the Ministry of Health, there are no designated smoking areas anywhere before the ban was established.
    2. In fact, the recent announcement by Minister Zuraidah Kamaruddin that the government is looking to implement a similar system as Japan, just makes it odder.
    3. Japan allows smokers to smoke indoors at restaurants, even allows restaurants to designate smoking areas or have the entire area indoors allowing smoking – particularly if you go to izakayas.
  2. You can still smoke indoors at home, or even in cars
    1. Smoking in cars has been banned in the UK, because it puts passengers at risk in a confined space.
    2. For some reason, Malaysia still allows this and also to smoke indoors at homes, something you will find hard to do in the UK due to the smoke detectors
  3. You can still smoke in pubs
    1. A medical association actually pointed out that you can no longer smoke in pubs and eateries in the UK. This is actually wrong. You cannot smoke indoors at pubs and eateries in the UK.
    2. In fact, pubs and eateries have since had outdoor areas where you can light up as you wish, in beer gardens or even dining alfresco at a Pret A Manger.
    3. Thus, if this Malaysian medical association has doctors, perhaps you should go seek second opinions to avoid omissions in your diagnoses.
    4. In Malaysia, you can still light up in eateries registered as pubs.
    5. So, maybe, this will lead to more Malaysians opting to dine at pubs with their families and friends? Perhaps.
  4. No ashtrays, nowhere
    1. The biggest problem with the Malaysian smoking ban is that you will not find an ashtray anywhere, not even on a trash can.
    2. Thus, what this leads to is an issue of littering – people are not going to seek out an ashtray to stub out just because they need to.
    3. With that in mind, and the fact that those going to restaurants will now have no outlet to smoke, expect the drainage system and roads to have to deal with the added littering.

If anything, it is clear that the Malaysian government did not think this matter through. What they should clearly have done were the following.

  1. Ban smoking indoors, which would include homes and cars
  2. Allow smoking outdoors, which would have been easier to enforce
  3. Push restaurateurs to close up – no more of this open air nonsense, and have designated areas for non-smokers and smokers alike which are well insulated, well ventilated and regulated.
  4. Provide public designated smoking zones – for everyone, with ashtrays to designate the 3-metre distance if they have to.

Honestly, the Malaysian government needs to keep check on its Ministry of Health, because it seems to be catering to what can only be termed as “Health Nazis” and fearmongers who believe they have to protect their child from cigarette smoke while out to eat, but exposing them at homes and in cars are no big deal.


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