More than 20,000 eatery owners under the umbrella of three associations are against the Ministry of Health's move to ban smoking in food premises from Jan 1, 2019.
The three associations are the Malaysia-Singapore Coffee Shop Proprietors General Association (MSCSPGA), Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) and Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (PRIMAS).
MSCSPGA president Datuk Ho Su Mong said the ban on smoking at al fresco restaurants is unrealistic with little effort being made by the authorities to get smokers to kick the habit.
He said the government should not totally ban smoking in open-air restaurants, but introduce smoking zones or cubicles like in Japan and Singapore.
"These cubicles or zones will ensure that non-smokers aren't affected by cigarette smoke. This is how we can help keep the air smoke-free," he said at a press conference on Monday (Nov 12).
In early September, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said smoking at open-air eateries will become illegal.
As a consequence, anyone caught breaching the ban will face a fine of RM10,000 with eateries that fail to enforce the law, slapped with a fine of RM2,500.
Although the eatery operators object to the ministry's move, Ho said it doesn't mean that the associations encourage smoking, merely that everyone should enjoy their rights.
Ho also said he has sent a letter to the ministry to hold a discussion to find a win-win situation for all.
Meanwhile, PRIMAS president T. Muthusamy said that banning smoking in restaurants or food premises will affect their income as almost 40% of customers are smokers.
He said the government has to take into account the impact on eatery businesses too, and hoped it will reconsider the ban.