The health ministry will hold discussions with operators of food premises in the near future before making any decision on the proposed provision of special smoking rooms following a ban on smoking at all food premises from Jan 1.
Its Deputy Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye, however, said the ministry did not even encourage the allocation of special smoking spaces because priority should be given to the health of the people, especially in public places.
“We will hold discussions with the operators (of food premises) so that they understand the ministry's intention (to enforce a smoking ban on food premises) to maintain health.
"We need to give importance to the rights of non-smokers so they are free from cigarette smoke because we all know smoking is harmful to health," he told reporters after officiating the Perdana Dengue Prevention Gotong Royong at Padang Medan Pengkalan Mutiara here, today.
There was a proposal from several food premises operators who wanted to provide a special smoking area to facilitate customers to smoke without bothering others who are non-smokers.
The health ministry had earlier issued a directive to ban smoking at all restaurants, food outlets, and hawker stalls in the country, including taking action against smokers and eatery owners who do not adhere to the directive effective Jan 1 next year and the proposal has been approved by the government.
Regarding the food poisoning cases believed to have been caused by the laksa bought at an eatery in Kupang, Baling in Kedah, Dr Lee said the analysis of the food samples taken at the premises will be known by Tuesday.
Dr Lee said if the laksa proved to be the cause of the food poisoning, action would be taken against the stall owner and according to him investigations were also being conducted on suppliers of laksa and other laksa ingredients such as vegetables.
The number of suspected food poisoning cases following the consumption of laksa bought at the stall in Kupang has now risen to 83, including two deaths following three new cases reported in Perak on Friday.
Earlier, Dr Lee in his speech said dengue cases recorded nationwide since the beginning of the year had reached 56,608 cases so far and hoped to record a decline in cases via dengue prevention programmes.