THE Malaysian government is planning to implement a blanket ban on smoking in all hotels in the country by the end of the year as part of an immense effort to end the habits of an estimated 4.7 million smokers.
All hotels will be gazetted as smoke-free areas by end of the year while other public places will gradually be made out-of-bounds for smoking.
The move is tipped to aid the smoking cessation of over 130,000 cigarette users in the country annually.
According to local daily The Star, the ban comes under the National Strategic Plan for Tobacco Control, which was developed across several ministries, health institutes, and the Malaysian Council for Tobacco Control, among others.
The plan would pave the way for the Tobacco Control and Smoking Bill, which includes the gazetting of additional non-smoking zones.
The Star quoted Health Minister S. Subramaniam saying that the ministry aimed to reduce the prevalence of tobacco smoking by 30 percent by 2025.
Despite the good-willed plan, hoteliers have called on the government to consult the industry’s stakeholders before making any decision, as the ban would likely affect their businesses.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Sam Cheah pointed out that smoking areas were designated outside the hotels in other countries, while others even had cigar bars for patrons.
Malaysia Budget Hotel Association president P.K. Leong echoed Cheah’s concerns, saying he hoped the hotel industry would be engaged before the anti-smoking plan was executed.
He said the government had not been clear whether it wanted hotels to become completely smoke-free or have designated smoking zones.
Late last year, the Health Ministry went on an all-out-war against the usage of e-cigarettes, or vaping, but maintained that the effort to combat the normal cigarette habit was continuous amid wide speculation that it was complicit with tobacco companies in protecting the industry.
During this period, the excise duty on cigarettes was increased, which saw some brands being raised from RM13.80 (US$3.30) to RM18 (US$4.40) per pack.
In neighboring Singapore, smoking areas were limited to a maximum of 20 percent of the total floor area for discotheques, pubs, bars, lounges or night clubs, while hotel lobbies were strictly off-limits to smoking.
Over in Thailand, indoor public places, workplaces, and public transport had been gazetted non-smoking areas, but international airports were allowed to have designated smoking areas and hotels may permit smoking in guest rooms.