Smoking At Public Places A Denial Of Human Rights

By Noor Adila Ali

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 6 (Bernama) -- "Smoking in public places is an act that denies others of their human rights.

"Due to the selfish act of smokers, the public ends up being passive smokers, inhaling the carcinogenic and asphyxiating second-hand smoke".

These were the words of Dr Zarihah Mohd Zain, the head of the unit in charge of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Unit at the Ministry of Health.

She added that cigarette smoke has been classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as a class A carcinogen.

Smokers only think of finishing their cigarette stick in public places to satisfy their craving without considering the rights and comfort of others.


She pointed out that according to the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS), conducted by the Health Ministry in 2011, smokers only represent 21 per cent of Malaysia's adult population.

According to the GATS, 85.8 per cent of the adults in Malaysia believe that second-hand smoke exposes non-smokers to health hazards associated with smoking.

Though a huge percentage of non-smokers are aware of the risks, they still tolerate smokers in public places, while smokers do not show any consideration.

"Smokers in public places are literally imposing their will on others, who may even be their family members, pregnant women, senior citizens and people who are suffering from illnesses, who end up inhaling toxic smoke as well," she told Bernama.

She said passive smokers in the country should stand up for their rights - the right to inhale fresh air that does not contain cigarette smoke.

Although reprimanding people who smoke in public areas may lead to unnecessary aggravation, it is inevitable.

"I once rebuked a smoker at a non-smoking area. Though this gave rise to some uneasiness as I crossed paths with the smoker regularly near my workplace, he was never seen smoking there again," she said.


Sharing the same views, a food trader at a farmer's market, Hamdan Hamzah, 42, also concurred with Dr Zarihah that most of the smokers are selfish and do not care about others.

Therefore, he said, it is better to reprimand them.

"The farmer's market is an open place and that is why I have to tell smokers not to smoke in front of me or my customers.

"There were times when some customers left rudely after being rebuked. However, I have no regrets since I was doing it for the welfare of my community," he said.

Vanessa Lee, 37, a housewife and a mother of two, is sensitive to cigarette smoke.


"Once, I had to walk out of an air-conditioned restaurant as there was cigarette smoke in the restaurant. Since I was with my children, I did not want them to inhale the smoke. One of my children is three years old and my other child is four months old," she said.

The irony is that there was a big 'No Smoking' sign at the place but the restaurant operator had no qualms about cigarette smoke.

A public servant, Mohd Zarol Bukhari Abdul Razak, 22, is happy with the government's move to impose high taxes on cigarettes to reduce the number of smokers.

"I don't want my family members to have health problems which are associated with smoking," he said, adding that he is aware that many parties are working hard to prohibit smoking in public places.

A physiotherapist, Nor Suhaizreen Sauti, 23, who is now five months pregnant, wants to keep away from cigarette smoke to ensure the well-being of her foetus.


A hardcore smoker, Muhd Faiz Ali, 33, admitted that he could not kick his smoking habit. However, he tries his best to avoid smoking in front of others.

Nevertheless, the father of three boys noted that sometimes he would light a cigarette in public places sub-consciously.

He added that there is no reason why smokers should get worked up when they are reminded about human rights and health hazards related to smoking.

Meanwhile, Dr Zarihah pointed out that the Health Ministry is taking steps to reduce the number of smokers through the enforcement of 'No Smoking' zones in public places and 'No Smoking' campaigns through the media and flyers.

"The ministry is working hard to reduce the number of smokers in public places. But the public should cooperate with the government to ensure that the policies are effective," he said.

Nevertheless, Dr Zarihah hopes Malaysians will fight for their rights when they witness smokers in public places.