The government’s plan to ban smoking at open-air mamak and hawker stalls will save lives as it will prevent non-smokers from being exposed to poisonous secondary smoke.
In a statement today, a group of 30 medical associations said research showed that non-smokers are at risk of developing serious health problems as a result of smoke inhalation.
“Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, some of which are carcinogenic or cancer-causing,” the statement said, adding that people exposed to secondary smoke are at risk of developing lung cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke.
The medical associations said women and children were the worst victims of secondary smoke inhalation in public areas.
“Side effects include severe and chronic asthma attacks. Cigarette smoke also increases the prevalence of respiratory tract and ear infections, premature births, and sudden death among babies and children.”
They made it clear that there is no “safe amount” of exposure to secondary cigarette smoke.
“Many countries around the world have taken steps to prevent their citizens from the harmful effects of secondary smoke. England, for example, banned smoking at the workplace in 2007.
“Results showed that following the ban, the number of heart attack patients fell by 42 per cent and 43 per cent among males and females, respectively.
“Meanwhile, states in the US that ban smoking (in public areas) saw a lower number of stroke cases compared to states that didn’t.”
The medical associations said this proves that the right policies will save lives as well as reduce physical, mental and emotional distress among smokers and non-smokers alike.
They also refuted claims that a ban on smoking would have an adverse effect of the economy.
“In England, restaurant businesses grew after smoking was banned. Restaurateurs increased their food quality and attracted many families, including small children.
“In the past, families avoiding going to restaurants where small children were exposed to cigarette smoke."
The statement was signed by the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia - College of Surgeons, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia - College of Physicians, Addiction Medicine Association of Malaysia, Asthma Malaysia, and Family Medicine Specialists Association of Malaysia, among others.
Earlier this month, Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said smoking at open-air eateries may be illegal from December.
He had said the ministry planned to gazette al fresco restaurants as no-smoke zones under the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017.