SMOKERS have long known that their addiction can burn a huge hole in their pockets, but the threat of a RM10,000 fine seems to be lost in the swirling mass of smoke.
With “No Smoking” signs pasted all around government buildings in the country’s administrative capital, one would think that the rule would be observed faithfully.Unfortunately, such signs are treated as mere decorations.
Never do these smokers attempt to hide their habit, with some even brazenly puffing away just a few metres from the signs.During checks conducted over three days following public complaints, a New Straits Times team found that the cafeteria in Parcel D — home to the Home, Transport and Human Resources ministries as well as the Malaysian.
Islamic Development Department (Jakim) and Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission — had the worst offenders.
Many of them would sit in the cafeteria and smoke indiscriminately by the windows. The cafe appeared to be one big ashtray, judging from the hundreds of cigarette butts littering the floor.Ironically, the Education Ministry, which suffers the same problem, is located next to the Health Ministry.
Offenders included civil servants, whose tags, uniforms and stitched agency logos gave them away, while about half of the smokers were members of the public.The NST team also noticed the same officers flouting regulations over the three days.
In other government buildings, cigarette butts were strewn all over the floor or at stairwells, where little ventilation ensured that the odour did not go unnoticed.“It’s a disgusting and annoying habit,” National Registration Department public relations officer Janisah Mohd Noor said.
“Sometimes, the entire cafeteria is enveloped in smoke. They just ignore the ‘No Smoking’ signs.”She said there were occasions when the building management had reprimanded the smokers, while health officers had issued on-the-spot fines to those caught with the smoking gun.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said an on-the-spot compound could be issued by health officers and offenders risked a maximum fine of RM10,000 if caught smoking in non-designated zones.
Two years ago, the Health Ministry enforced a smoking ban covering 21 areas, including hospitals and clinics, public lifts and toilets, air-conditioned restaurants, public transport, government premises and educational institutions.Blatant disregard for the ban reflects negatively on the ministry’s enforcement teams.
Rosnah, however, revealed that 1,470 fines were issued last year for lighting up in government premises.“It is the responsibility of the heads of departments to ensure that their officers comply with no-smoking regulations.”
The ministry’s disease control division director, Dr Chong Chee Keong, said enforcement teams had schedules when conducting spot checks at the government premises, especially to prevent smoking.The problem was, he said, they could not conduct checks frequently mainly due to a shortage of manpower.
“Some of the teams may not be able to visit particular places as often as they would like to and they depend on the owners of the premises to enforce the ban.“If we know that certain areas get regular complaints, then that area would be targeted with frequent spot checks.”
He added that the division had also received complaints from various agencies and departments, but so far complaints were lodged mainly by members of the public.
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