Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Snuff out smokers’ demands

Snuff out smokers’ demands

Dr Helmy Haja Mydin, respiratory specialist from the Kuala Lumpur Pantai Hospital. — Bernama

This is final article of a two-part series on the implementation of the government ban of smoking at public eateries that came into effect on Jan 1, 2019.
KUALA LUMPUR: “It’s like having dessert. I don’t know how to describe the high I feel.
“That is why it has become like a ritual to reach for my cigarettes and light up after my meals,“ Uzaimi Mohd Hassan, 22, told Bernama when asked about his habit of smoking after meals.
The private sector worker started smoking at the age of 20 and said that he would bring a pack of cigarettes wherever he went. Even if all he had was a single cigarette, he would bring it around with him as he would be riddled with anxiety otherwise.
Uzaimi is not alone in his addiction. Many smokers experience similar hallmarks of hardcore addiction to cigarettes. One of them is Shahrul Nizam Mohd Ayob, who has been a slave to the self-destructive habit for 25 years.
The father of five admitted to going through two packets – or 40 sticks – of cigarettes a day.
“It makes my meals complete. I do look around, though, when smoking at restaurants. If there are old people, pregnant ladies or children, I would still smoke but I’d exhale upwards,“ he said.
The Health Ministry’s 2015 National Health and Morbidity Survey showed 22.8% of Malaysians – or five million people – aged 15 years old and above are smokers, with 43% being male.
Three metres
Uzaimi and Shahrul Nizam were both aware of the implementation of the smoking ban at all eateries starting January but said that they had no issues with it.
What was important to them was that they were still allowed to smoke, even if they had to walk a short distance away from the restaurants they were dining at before lighting up.
The Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye was quoted as saying that smokers can only light up a minimum of three metres away from an eatery.
In October, the ministry announced that smoking in all restaurants, coffee shops and hawker centres nationwide would be banned starting Jan 1, 2019.
Those caught smoking in prohibited areas will be fined up to RM10,000 or face two years’ jail while eateries found to have allowed customers to light up will be slapped with a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a minimum of one year in jail.
Owners of eateries who fail to put up no-smoking signs can be fined up to RM3,000 or a maximum jail term of six months.
However, the Health Ministry will give offenders a grace period of six months to comply with the ban, during which it would educate and warn restaurant owners and smokers.
Uzaimi said he had discussed the ruling with his smoker friends.
“We can comply with the ruling, but we are confused as to how we are to gauge the three-metre distance,“ he said.
Win-win solution
The owner of Kafe Hirup Sedut, Shazul Khuzairi Zulkifli, plans to mark the no-smoking zone with coloured adhesive tape, which he will apply from the entrance of his café to the three-metre limit.
“I am certain smokers would be asking where the three-metre limit is. I feel that it is the operator’s responsibility to inform them this and it’s not that hard to do so,“ said the 33-year-old, whose café is located in in Kota Tinggi, Johor.
He applauded the move by the government to safeguard public health, particularly those of non-smokers’ who have been subjected to the ill-effects of cigarette smoke exposure for so long.
Unfortunately, there are still groups who vehemently oppose the ban, particularly from among hardcore smokers and eatery operators.
Several eatery owners association in Kuala Lumpur and Penang that are opposed to a total smoking ban at all eateries, including open-air outlets, have called for a “win-win solution”.
But what exactly do they mean by a win-win solution? How would having designated smoking area within a business premises protect the interest of all parties?
Smoking within a public area subjects everyone, regardless of age or health, to the numerous hazards of cigarette smoke. Studies have shown that cigarette smoke and toxins sticks onto clothes and surfaces of premises and can remain within the structure of a premises for months, affecting the health of not only present but future patrons of the establishments as well.
How is this a win-win solution for all? Innocent patrons who just want to dine out with their family members risk exposure to a host of smoking-related disease, which eventually costs the government billions of ringgit in treatment. This is in addition to the emotional and physical burden on family members, the loss of workplace productivity and subsequently the impact on the economy.
Third-hand smoke lasts
There are over 4,000 toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, including at least 70 that can cause cancer. The WHO estimates over 20,000 adult males in Malaysia die from smoking-related complications every year.
A respiratory specialist from the Kuala Lumpur Pantai Hospital, Dr Helmy Haja Mydin said that many did not realise the extent of the harm experienced by second-hand smokers, as well as third-hand smokers.
“Second-hand smokers are those who breathe in the cigarette smoke exhaled by smokers. Third-hand smokers, meanwhile, are those exposed to the residue from cigarette smoke particles that stick to the surfaces of tables, walls and areas of a premises, even after it has been cleaned,“ he said.
Many have incorrectly assumed that if no one is presently smoking in a home, restaurant or car, the area is smoke-free.
The truth is, as long as someone has smoked within an area, residual tobacco smoke would still be present and settle on almost every surface of the area such as the walls, sofa and curtains as well as on the clothes and hair of anyone who has been there. This is called third-hand smoke.
Studies have shown that the homes of hardcore smokers who quit still contain toxic chemicals from cigarette smoke even after six months of quitting.
Third-hand smoke also remain within the vacated home of a smoker after two months, despite it being thoroughly cleaned beforehand.
Imagine the risk of exposure to pregnant mothers as well as babies who live in such homes. Babies and toddlers tend to crawl and touch every surface as well as place their hands in their mouths often, increasing exposure to the toxic chemicals and the hosts of health complications caused by it.
A public interest
Dr Helmy, who has 10 years of experience as respiratory specialist, said that women are children often bear the brunt of the dangers of public smoking. However, the effects of cigarette smoke exposure on their wellbeing are often ignored.
Children, for example, routinely suffer respiratory problems and stunted growth due to the exposure while pregnant women risk miscarriage, giving birth prematurely and having babies with birth defects.
“Passive smokers exposed to third-hand smoke sometimes suffer even more than active smokers because they inhale more toxins from cigarette smoke.
“They are also subjected to higher concentrations of cancer-causing agents from the residual smoke particles,“ he said.
A 2007 research by Prof Dr Syed Muhamad Al Junid entitled Health Care Cost of Smoking in Malaysia found 39% of lung cancer patients were passive smokers with family members who smoked, compared to the 21% who were not.
In addition to that, 38% of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are passive smokers with a smoker in the family compared to the 22% who were not.
“Reducing the impact of second-hand smoke would improve public health and reduce the government healthcare burden,“ he said. 

Cred- thesundaily

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