On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Anti-smoking move is no light matter

On coming home, it was a delight as a non-smoker to read
a move by the Human Resources Ministry to ban smoking in all workplaces in
order to provide a clean and healthy environment for employees.

This move, which is an extension to several existing
no-smoking areas, will be included under a new regulation on indoor air quality
which will be place in six months.

The regulation will stipulate what constitutes indoor air
quality in office buildings and is aimed at clamping down on smoking in the

Minister Datuk Dr Fong Chan Onn must be lauded for his
proposal but many Malaysians are sceptical about the implementation of the
proposed law.

Our politicians and bureaucrats have a reputation for
passing and enacting laws but not enforcing them well.

We have laws that ban smoking in places such as cinemas,
air-conditioned restaurants, shopping malls, public transport, airports and
government premises. But you and I know that air-conditioned restaurants also
have smoking and non-smoking sections.

Most of the time, the tables in both sections are so
close together that it makes a mockery of the whole exercise.

Restaurant owners and employees are reluctant to stop
smokers from lighting up despite protests from non-smokers because they fear
offending these customers.

Non-smokers have to suffer in silence because they are
too timid to confront the smokers. I have seen episodes of complaints nearly
coming to blows.

Smokers know that enforcement of the laws is so pathetic
that they are unlikely to be caught and fined, unlike in Singapore
where regulations are strictly enforced.

When we were young, we would never think of riding a
motorcycle without a helmet or not repair a faulty reflector.

Today, we often see motorcyclists running the red light,
ride around with three passengers at times, and sometimes with broken brake
lights because they know the chances of being caught is practically nil.

Some cynical Malaysians go further to imply that these
unruly souls probably think they can "settle" their cases if caught by the
police or council enforcement officers.

I think the proposal by some readers that traffic cops
and council officers be given a monthly quota in issuing summons deserves
serious consideration.

It's ridiculous to enact more laws against smoking in
public premises when there is no enforcement.

We have enough laws and regulations; the authorities
should look into implementing and enforcing these rules.

If we need more law enforcers, whether full-time officers
or volunteers, then we must employ more. In England,
the police have recruited community support officers who have powers to assist
the police in their work.

Without doubt, our authorities must be commended for
pushing forward these new anti-smoking laws but they must be serious in the
implementation and enforcement aspects.

It would be easier, I believe, for employees to stop
smoking in their offices because no one wants to risk the wrath of their bosses
who pay their salaries.

But many smokers don't give a damn at eateries because
they know no one is going to haul them up.

So, let's be serious about making these laws work – if
not, everything will go up in smoke, so to speak.