Delay enforcement pending verdict, smokers group pleads with Health Ministry

Kenneth Tee
Protem chairman of Pertahankan Hak Perokok Mohd Hanizam Yunus speaks to Malay Mail in Kuala Lumpur January 3, 2019. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — With two days to go, a smokers’ group hopes the Health Ministry will delay enforcing a nationwide ban on smoking at food outlets for another six months pending its court appeal.

Persatuan Kesedaran Perokok Malaysia chairman Mohd Hanizam Yunus said its appeal against a High Court’s dismissal of its challenge to the smoking ban is scheduled to be heard on January 17, just days after the ministry said it will fully crackdown on violators found smoking at food establishments.

He pleaded with the ministry to extend the current moratorium until the Court of Appeal makes a decision.

“Since the appeal of the Kuala Lumpur High Court decision in dismissing our judicial review has been filed at Court of Appeal with the hearing fixed for January 17, 2020, we have ordered our lawyer Haniff Khatri Abdulla to write to the health minister for the latter to use his discretion to extend the moratorium on the ban to June 30, 2020.

“The purpose of the moratorium extension is to enable the Court of Appeal to complete the appeal hearing so that there would not be any prejudice to all including the ministry and smokers,” he said in a statement.

A copy of the letter undersigned by Haniff Khatri and addressed to Health Minister Datuk Seri Dzulkefly Ahmad by the former’s law firm was also provided to Malay Mail.

Mohd Hanizam said the letter, dated December 24, did not elicit any response from the Health Ministry.

“It would be greatly appreciated if the health minister could issue a positive and fair statement on our application before January 1, 2020,” he added.

In January, the group that calls itself the Smokers Right Club was granted leave to initiate judicial review proceedings to challenge the smoking ban.

Apart from Mohd Hanizam, the other applicants are Zulkifli Mohamad, 56, Ridzuan Muhammad Noor, 52, Mohd Yazid Mohd Yunus, 48, Mohd Laisani Dollah, 46, Yuri Azhar Abdollah, 39, and Mohd Sufian Awaludin, 35.

Effective January 1, 2020, a smoking ban will be enforced at all restaurants and stalls nationwide, regardless if the premises are enclosed or open air.

The first offence is punishable with a RM250 fine that could snowball to RM10,000 if left unpaid and taken to court.

In April, Dzulkefly had announced that the education enforcement period for smoking ban at eating outlets would be extended until the end of the year to give more time for smokers to increase their awareness on the dangers of smoking.

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