Non-smokers in Malaysia rejoice after an eternity of discomfort
KUALA LUMPUR — Cigarette smoke no longer gets in the eyes of non-smokers, including pregnant women and children, since the smoking ban at eateries went into effect on Jan 1.
Besides the fresher air, eateries are now a safer place for them, especially those suffering from asthma.
Bank worker Caryn Lai, 33, who is pregnant with her second child, said usually, there would be someone smoking whenever she frequented coffeeshops.
“But over the past few days, I really don’t see anyone smoking. I am so glad,” she said.
“I think the smoking ban is very good, especially for children, old folk and pregnant women like me.”
Lai, who is from Cheras, said previously, she found it difficult to shield her three-year-old daughter from second-hand smoke.
“You could not randomly ask people not to smoke. I could just try to move my daughter farther away from the smokers. I would also try my best to finish my food as fast as possible,” said Lai.
“I hope the authorities will continue the stringent enforcement and eateries will be smoke-free places for all.”
Exposure to second-hand smoke is found to increase a mother’s risks of pre-term delivery and intrauterine growth restriction, a condition which will see the fetus smaller than expected.
Paediatric doctor Dr Ho Jien Yeen, who used to suffer from childhood asthma, said the ban was definitely good news for asthma patients as second-hand smoke was especially harmful to them.
“Tobacco smoke is a powerful trigger for asthmatic symptoms. I was more sensitive towards second-hand smoke when I was younger.
“Even now, if I am exposed to too much second-hand smoke, I could suffer an asthma attack,” she said.
Dr Ho said second-hand smoke also increased the risks of children developing asthma.
“Adults who are health-conscious know how to distance themselves from second-hand smoke.
“But young children would just stay near smokers without knowing that they are breathing in substances that are detrimental to their health,” she said.
“Children who are hospitalized for wheezing have higher risks of developing asthma. And more often than not, many of these children’s male family members are smokers.”
Investment analyst Chong Shin Wai, who does not smoke, said he now had more places to go to enjoy good food.
“With the smoking ban and stringent enforcement, I can now visit those coffeeshops to enjoy good food. I have more choices now,” he said.
He said in the past, he seldom visited mamak stalls, coffeeshops or open-air food courts where many were seen puffing away.
“It (smoking ban) is a tough decision to make but someone needs to make it for the long-term betterment of Malaysians,” said Chong, who suggested that the government not rush into extending the ruling.
“Instead of extending the ban to more places, the government should focus on enforcement in existing areas. Extending the ban will make enforcement more difficult. Maybe the government should extend it in stages,” he said.
According to the Health Ministry, from Jan 1 to 4, 6,026 official warning notices were issued to individuals for disobeying the ban in eateries.
Some 32,669 pamphlets have also been distributed while 31,508 people were given advice.
A total of 12,243 eateries were inspected.
The smoking ban at all food premises began on Jan 1 under Regulation 11 of the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations (Amendments) 2018.
After a six-month grace period, anyone found guilty of the offense can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.