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Monday, April 24, 2017

Smoking banned in public parks

KOTA KINABALU: Smoking is now banned in public parks in Sabah, said Sabah Health Department director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi.

She said public parks in Sabah have agreed to be gazetted as no-smoking zones starting February 1 this year.

Dr Christina said the Health Ministry, through the State Health Department, would be educating the public of the new enforcement from February 15 to May 31.

“Beginning June 1 this year, full enforcement will be implemented whereby offenders can be fined up to RM10,000 or imprisoned not exceeding two years if convicted.”

Since February this year, she said 762 warning notices have been issued to smokers at public parks in all the districts in Sabah.

Dr Christina said this during the State-level launching of public parks as no-smoking zones at Taman Ujana Rimba Tropika here yesterday. The launching was officiated by Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) deputy director-general of operations, Noorliza Awang Alip, who represented Mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai.

Smoking in public parks is no longer allowed when the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 came into force on February 1 this year. At the same time, smoking is now also banned in air-conditioned food outlets, open air public transport stops and stadiums.

“With the amendment, public parks means any open area for the purposes of leisure and recreational activities containing soft or hard landscapes, or both, such as pedestrian path, playing field, game court and playground except an open public car park,” she said.

Dr Christina said Malaysia was 100 per cent committed to achieve ‘The End Game’ to reduce the prevalence of smoking by 30 per cent a year. The target is to lower the smoking prevalence to 15 per cent and below by 2025 and less than five per cent by 2045.

Hence, she said the expansion of no-smoking zones was part of the effort to achieve the target.

The National Health Morbidity Survey (NHMS) in 2015 found that the prevalence of smoking was 22.8 per cent among Malaysians, while Sabah recorded the highest percentage of smokers with 28.4 per cent.

Asked if the Health Department has sufficient manpower to carry out the enforcement in public parks, Dr Christina said enforcement was just a part of the no-smoking programme.

Instead of having enforcement officers stationed in public parks at all times to issue compounds to smokers, she said members of the public could remind smokers not to light up.

“We want to use social pressure to remind smokers that their action affects others and is unacceptable.

“Enforcement is not the main strategy,” she said.

On another note, Dr Christina said many health facilities provided assistance to smokers to quit smoking.

However, she said it took a lot of determination for smokers to kick the habit.

“We have no problems with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who assist people to stop smoking.

“More importantly, we want to reduce the number of smokers.”

Meanwhile, permanent secretary of the Local Government and Housing Ministry, Datuk Ginun Yangus said the ministry had instructed the local authorities in Sabah to identify at least one public park in their districts to be declared as no-smoking zone.

At present, he said the Sidek Esplanade in Kudat and a public park in Sipitang have been declared as no-smoking zones.

“We will know the number of no-smoking public parks in the State by the end of this year.”

As for Kota Kinabalu, Noorliza said there are six public parks here, five of which have been installed with no-smoking signboards.

“This is a community responsibility. Even there is no compound, staff at the public parks should remind smokers not to light up when they do so.”

Yeo, in his speech which was delivered by Noorliza, stated that expanding the no-smoking zones aimed to curb smoking in public areas.

“The local authorities, namely DBKK and the Ministry of Local Government and Housing in other districts in Sabah fully supported the initiative by installing no-smoking signboards since last year.”

Also present were State Health Department deputy director of public health, Dr Ismail bin Ali and Kota Kinabalu health officer Dr Jiloris F. Dony.

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