KUCHING: Mulu National Park, which had been recognised as one of the world heritage site by Unesco will be gazetted as a smoking-free area by the year 2017.
The initiative makes Mulu National Park, the second world heritage site in the country, after Melaka to be gazetted as smoking-free area.
Besides Malaysia, other world heritage sites such as Luang Prabang in Laos, Sukhotai in Thailand, Ha Long in Vietnam had prohibited their visitors from smoking in the areas.
Other areas including Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobudur Temple and Premban in Indonesia, Champasack in Laos, Underground River Puerto Princesa, Palawan in The Philippines, Ayutthaya in Thailand, Hoi An in Vietnam, Kinabalu Park and Georgetown in Malaysia are in the process of gazetting the prohibition.
To implement the project, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Malaysian Health Promotion Board (MySihat) and Sarawak Medical Association at State Health Department here yesterday.
MySihat was represented by MySihat chief executive officer Datuk Dr Yahya Baba while Sarawak Medical Association was represented by its chairman, who is also state health director Dr Zulkifli Jantan.
The MoU was witnessed by Minister of Local Government and Community Development Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh and MySihat chairman Toh Puan Datuk Seri Dr Aishah Ong.
During her speech, Dr Aishah said the MoU signing saw the role by MySihat to intensify the promotion of health through the active involvement of non-governmental organisation , that is, Sarawak Medical Association.
She pointed out that this programme was part of the initiatives by MySihat towards establishing more smoking-free areas in world heritage sites in the country.
She stated that the cigarette smoke-free initiative would not stop on world heritage sites because efforts are currently underway by MySihat for more areas in the country to be gazetted as smoking-free areas.
“MySihat is actively supporting efforts by state governments to turn areas in their states to be smoking-free. Johor will be launching its smoke-free campaign on this May 31 in conjunction with World No Tobacco Day,” she added.
Meanwhile, Wong said the move to gazette Mulu National Park as a non-smoking area would not deter tourists from visiting the national park.
He said that with the worldwide concern on healthy environment, the move instead could encourage even more visitors to the park.
“On one hand, (some people would say) it would deter smoking tourists but on the balance, we would not lose out in the long run (in terms of tourists’ arrival),” he told reporters after the MoU signing ceremony.
Earlier during his speech, Wong called on tourism stakeholders involved in the promotion and services at Mulu National Park to refrain from smoking and to play their part to ensure the success of the project.
“I’m very grateful that the programme has been brought to our door step and I would say that Mulu National Park is the first world heritage site in the state to be gazetted as cigarette smoke-free zone,” he said.
Knowing that saying is easier than done, Wong urged both public and private sectors to put in efforts to ensure that programme could be implemented successfully.
“I know MySihat has all the good intention to initiate such a project and I would say that making this project successful requires concerted effort from everyone.
“It takes continuous effort to make this project successful because in five years time, we hope to see Mulu National Park being free from cigarette smoke,” he added.
Wong hoped that all visitors and staff of Mulu National Park would make an effort to refrain from smoking in support of the programme.
“It is a matter of courtesy as you would not want other people to be second hand smokers and it is also courteous that you don’t smoke in front of other people.
“You have to refrain yourself from time to time and if you have to smoke, smoke away from other people,” he said.
Wong added that it required discipline for an individual to stop smoking, adding that it required strong determination from smokers to discipline themselves not to do something that they should not do.
On another note, Dr Zulkifli said as the financial assistance from MySihat should be given to non-governmental organisations, the contribution of RM250,000 by the board would be channelled to Sarawak Medical Association for its anti-smoking activities this year.