A smoking ban is being enforced at all restaurants, coffee shops and hawker stalls across Malaysia, starting Jan 1.

The ban will be applicable to all air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned restaurants and eateries.

Datuk Seri Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, Malaysian Health Minister, said as of now the focus would be more on educating people than issuing fines. However, the Health Ministry officers would note of repeat offenders.

“These policies will take time to implement so we want to step up awareness first,” he said. “The state Health Departments will also be working with local councils to enforce the smoking ban,” he added.

The Health Minister has also told the restaurant owners to refrain people from smoking in their premises.

“There has been a lot of attention on the campaign, and the response from the public has been overwhelming,” he said.

Despite the detractors, many are supportive of the smoking ban as it would benefit the vulnerable, including children and pregnant women.

Deputy Health Minister Lee Boon Chye said that 5,008 health officers and assistant health officers would make rounds to manage the campaign, as consistency is important to run the campaign throughout the year.

“They will operate according to their schedules. We will maximise our rounds starting Tuesday and the officers will be checking for compliance. However, we will issue compounds only to recalcitrant offenders. For the first six months, the emphasis will be on advising the public,” he said on Monday.

He also said that the response from the public has been good so far, and the social media campaigns would continue to spread awareness.

“In fact, if you go to any restaurants now, there are hardly anyone smoking inside, whether the outlet is air-conditioned or not.

“On top of these, we will also go to the ground to drive home the message,” he said.

Once the smoking ban has been enforced, anyone caught smoking in the prohibited areas will be fined up to RM10,000 (S$3,300) or face two years in jail. Restaurants or eateries found to have allowed customers to smoke will be charged with a maximum fine of RM2,500.

Other products, apart from tobacco, including vape and shisha with nicotine are also banned.

However, smokers can smoke three meters away from the prohibited area.

Restaurants are required to display a “no-smoking” poster of at least 40cm x 50cm at their premises and smoking rooms or ashtrays are strictly prohibited.

The public can also report about the offenders to the health ministry directly via its hotline.

Dr Lee also said, “We also hope that the rakyat (New Year) will give us time to deliver our promises.”