IPOH (Dec 26): The Health Ministry will not compromise when it comes to the health of non-smokers, while at the same time, respecting the rights of smokers, said its Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye.
He said the smoking ban at all restaurants and food premises beginning Jan 1 did not prevent smokers from having their puff, but on condition that they smoke far away from the prohibited areas.
“The government respects those who do not smoke and respect the rights of smokers. We will not stop those who want to smoke but it has to be in an open area away from public space so that it does not affect the health of others,” he added .
Dr Lee, who is also MP for Gopeng, disclosed this to reporters after attending a gotong-royong programme at Kampung Rapat Jaya Tambahan, here today.
Yesterday, it was reported in a local daily that the Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (PRIMAS) had asked the government to postpone the ban as smoking was a habit and heavy smokers would find it hard to kick off the habit.
The report also mentioned that restaurant operators had no power to reprimand customers who smoke at their premises, thus making it difficult to prevent such acts.
Dr Lee said the ministry took note of the views of all parties including restaurant operators, but there were several factors that had led to such a measure (smoking ban) to be imposed, one of which was the harmful effects of cigarette smoke.
“The first is that smoking is dangerous and harms health not just for smokers but also non-smokers who are exposed to cigarette smoke.
“The second is the trend where the number of smokers among teens has been increasing, so the government is taking this matter seriously and thirdly, in 2005 we signed an agreement with the World Health Organisation on the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control with a target that the country would become a smoke-free nation by 2045,” he said.
In another development, Dr Lee said no pharmaceutical company in the country was carrying out studies to make marijuana a medical drug.
He said that as long as the substance was not registered under the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency, owning or selling marijuana is illegal even for medical purposes.