Malaysia - PSD and Cuepacs are at odds over the no-smoking rule at government de­­partments and agencies..

June 26, 2009 - KUALA LUMPUR: Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services (Cuepacs) is ignoring the rights of non-smokers when it opposed the Public Service Department's (PSD) stand on no-smoking at government departments and agencies. The PSD said there was already a provision under the Control of Tobacco Product Regulations (Amend­ment) 2008 on this. Those who violate provisions under the regulations can be fined up to RM10,000 or jailed up to two years. Cuepacs president Omar Osman said the blanket rule was unfair and called on the Government to provide designated rooms for smokers.

Prof Dr Rahmat Awang of Universiti Sains Malaysia's National Poison Centre and Malaysian Trades Union Congress adviser on indoor air quality Dr T. Jayabalan said Cuepacs must be seen to serve the rights of non-smokers as much as it wanted to protect the rights of smokers.

They said it had been proven that ventilation systems could not filter the particles and gases in tobacco smoke to safe levels. They said tobacco smoke contained more than 4,000 chemicals, including more than 200 that were poisonous, and at least 69 that were carcinogenic.

They were responding Cuepacs' call to Public Service Department (PSD) not to impose a blanket ban on smoking in government premises but to provide smokers with designated smoking areas. It was reported in a local daily recently that the PSD would monitor the no-smoking rule at government premises. The PSD had also said government servants were prohibited from smoking in government premises.

Dr Rahmat said the notion that designated smoking areas was a responsible alternative to a smoking ban was flawed. Dr Rahmat and Dr Jayabalan said it was not advisable to have designated smoking areas because:smoking sections without floor-to-ceiling partitions between the non-smoking section and smoking section do not prevent exposure to second-hand smoke; designated rooms pose a threat to those who have to clean and work in them; and smoke escapes through the open door when people enter or leave the smoking room.

International Labour Organisation (is the tripartite UN agency that brings together governments, employers and workers of its member states in common action to promote decent work throughout the world) estimates showed that 200,000 workers were killed each year by exposure to second-hand smoke at work.

In a survey carried out in Malaysia, they said, it was found that 61.3 per cent of adult smokers had wanted to quit but found it difficult.

They said enforcing eight hours of non-smoking would be a step in the right direction to kick the habit. "It must be remembered that there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke and scientists have concluded that the only effective protection is 100 per cent smoke-free places."

References: Cuepacs told to remember non-smokers, The New Straits Times, 6/26/2009; HUFF AND PUFF OVER RULE ON SMOKING, by SARBAN SINGH,
The Star, 6/19/2009; Ceupacs wants designated rooms for puffers?, BeritaKampus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 6/25/2009.

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