Sarawak seeks to create uniformity in anti-smoking regulations

Pix: Dr Sim (yellow shirt) posing for a photo with (from fifth left) Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg and wife Datuk Amar Juma’ani Tuanku Bujang, and others at his open house.

By Geryl Ogilvy

KUCHING, Feb 6: The Sarawak government will consult its federal counterpart on creating consistent anti-smoking regulations across the board, before its smoking ban fully comes to force later this year.

Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian said the state will look to amend its Local Government Ordinance so there would not be conflicting anti-smoking laws on both state and federal level.

Sarawak is set to implement its smoking ban at all eateries statewide beginning March 1. However, the first six months will be carried out as an “educational enforcement period”, where no compound will be issued.

“Considering that the smoking ban is a federal law, we have to consult the Health Ministry.

“For instance, we can’t have two separate laws that conflict with each other, especially on compound. One law says RM10,000 fine and the other law says RM15,000. So, which one are you going to pay?” he told reporters at his Chinese New Year open house here today.

He was responding to whether his ministry would introduce smoking zones in public spaces following the probational smoking ban in Sarawak next month.

At the same time, Dr Sim said the state will look at the Kuching North City Hall (DBKU) smoking regulations introduced two years ago, where the council imposed smoking and non-smoking zones at eateries under its jurisdiction.

DBKU, which enforced smoking zones at eateries under its jurisdiction since Jan 1 this year, has set up several public smoking zones across the city.

However, business owners are not allowed to set up smoking zones outside their premises as it is a public area, he explained.

“We will relook at our Local Government Ordinance and take the DBKU model under consideration in the enforcement of smoking zones.

“On smoking as a whole, we understand the need of smokers but we also have to factor in the health issues and the need of others (non-smokers),” he continued.

On the six-month “educational enforcement period” smoking ban at eateries, Dr Sim said this was to give time to smokers to adapt to the new ruling.

“We can’t ask smokers to quit right away, otherwise they go cold turkey. We still need to give them space (to adapt) but more importantly, we will see how to uniform the laws between Sarawak and the federal government,” he continued.

After the six months “educational enforcement period” in Sarawak, offenders found smoking at banned places can be fined up to RM10,000 or be imprisoned to a maximum term of two years, while eatery owners who fail to put up a “No Smoking” sign at their premises can be fined up to RM3,000 or face maximum six months imprisonment.

The federal government has banned smoking at all restaurants and food joints in Peninsular Malaysia starting Jan 1 this year, while Sabah implemented their smoking ban in February. — DayakDaily