Provide facilities, zoning to smokers – MATTA

KOTA KINABALU : The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) suggested that food premises should be given a choice to implement or otherwise based on clientele expectation and demand when it comes to the issue of the smoking ban which is now a hot topic among Malaysians.

Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the government needed to collaborate with operators of food premises and other public outlets affected by the smoking ban by providing facilities and zoning for consumers and tourists’ comfort.

“Some of these premises are beside the roads and the ‘3m’ distance means they will be smoking on the road,” he said, adding that it was for this very reason that the association was reminding the government, business owners and ordinary members of the society to weigh carefully to decide if the smoking ban was worth implementing or not in their respective communities.

Tan said there was a need for the authorities concerned as well as the public at large to really understand the pros and cons of the smoking ban.

He said the smoking ban would help reduce the risk of second-hand smoke; lessen air pollution; improve work productivity; reduce healthcare costs; decrease the possibility of fires; reduce wastes; contribute to lower energy consumption and personal expenses, amongst others.

On the other hand, the president said the cons of the smoking ban include taking away freedom from people; can affect businesses; not affective; drive people to smoke somewhere else; and result to lesser tax revenue for the government, to name few.

In Sabah, Tan said : “Let us not forget that Kota Kinabalu is the gateway for tourism in the ‘Land Below The Wind’, both domestic and foreign.

“The city’s main economic activity is tourism. Hence, penalising premises owners by fines and imprisonment on tourists smoking is not the way forward.

“There could be serious repercussions as food operators may appear ‘hostile’ towards tourists who chose to smoke in eateries,” he said adding that there could also be a drop in F&B outlets in terms of revenues as a result of the smoking ban.”

Tan reiterated that Matta is just urging the parties concerned to carefully understand the pros and cons of the smoking ban for the good of every Malaysian and foreign visitors.

“The controversy on smoking ban is not to leave the debate arena soon. There will always be people who will advocate for banning smoking in public places for concerns on health issues and fire hazards.

“However, there are also those who are firm in opposing it. And although there is a higher percentage of people who are behind the smoking ban, imposing this policy nationwide is not going to be easy because the views of the people will always be divided,” the Matta president concluded.