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War against smoking: KLIA will be a test case
Prof Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
New Sunday Times, December 5, 2004
GOING by almost daily reports about the no-smoking rule to be drawn up under the Air Quality Regulations, the Human Resources Ministry looks determined in its war against cigarettes.
The latest declaration is that the no-smoking rule will be "comprehensive" in protecting the health of the workers, smokers and non-smokers alike.
Minister Datuk Dr Pong Chan Onn was quoted as saying (NST, Nov 30) that workers were increasingly falling ill, due to the smoke-filled work environment as reflected by the spiralling Socso compensation costs.
Many countries such as Ireland, and some states in the United States, have successfully implemented similar legislation in workplaces and business premises.
Even the Himalayan nation of Bhutan had recently announced that it will ban tobacco sales this month, putting Malaysia to shame.
Bhutan may not be, economically, in the same league; yet, it leagues ahead when it comes to public health.
Tiny Bhutan knows where its priority lies, since it has been shown repeatedly that the income generated from smoking-related activities will eventually be drained away for costly medical treatments.
While we like to believe that the Ministry too shares the same concern, the inconsiderate smoking room at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport would be a good test to gauge how serious it is about keeping indoor air quality clean.
The area is at the domestic terminal, situated in the vicinity of the Mas Golden Lounge.
The air outside the smoking room is tainted with cigarette smoke, which mostly likely come from the smoking room.
It becomes even more obvious each time when the door is opened as someone enters or leaves the room.
Despite the ventilators placed in the smoking room, it is not surprising if second-hand smoke escapes out to pollute the air around the room and far beyond.
Similar experiences have been reported in other airports around the world.
In other words, one has just to pass by the smoking room to be unknowingly exposed to this insidious hazardous air.
Because the smoking room is situated at such a strategic location, there no escaping this poisonous exposure for all passengers forced to cross the area.
Worse still, there are now vendors stationed right in front of the smoking room, and by the side of it. This means the salesperson will be exposed to the second-hand smoke.
So too the people at the nearby fast-food outlet, the transit counters and even those at Immigration counters. The total numbers could easily add up to thousands daily whose health are endangered.
Many of them are workers. Should they not deserve to be protected from the cigarette smoke produced by the smokers in the smoking room? How about the thousands more plying the airport daily?
In short, is it time the ministry follows the example of Bhutan and does something about it.
The writer is the vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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