Malaysia’s Health Ministry has urged members of the public to act as its ‘eyes and ears’ when its tobacco-smoking ban at all restaurants and eateries is enforced nationwide from January 1.

Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye said the public could lodge their complaints directly to the ministry via its telephone hotline.

“During this enforcement period, it’s important that this is not done just by the ministry but also with the co-operation of the public,” Lee was quoted as saying.

“The government is widening the scope of non-smoking zones not just to bring down the numbers of smokers but to also protect the rights of those who do not smoke so that they will not be exposed to second-hand smoke …,” he said.

Lee said the Ministry’s enforcement drive during the first six months would focus on educating the public and restaurant owners to make them aware of the ban.

However, he added, this did not mean that smokers should regard the ban lightly.

“After six months, there will be patrols to check on the smoking ban and the public can call the ministry hotline if they see people breaking the law,” he said.

Asked if the 5,000-strong enforcement team was enough to enforce the ban, Lee said the ministry would strategize the deployment of its officers nationwide.

He said stern enforcement would be enforced after six months via regular patrols and with the help of the public.

Although the law is described as banning smoking, restaurant operators can designate smoking zones within their premises, though they must be built three meters away from dining area.

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