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Previously blocked by WhatsApp, the Health Ministry’s smoking hotline is now back online

In light of the 2019 no-smoking law, the Health Ministry has been amping up its efforts to catch wrongdoers in the act. A WhatsApp number has been set up as a complaint hotline, where members of the public can report sightings of those breaking the smoking ban (along with pictures). However, that WhatsApp number has been blocked since a couple of days ago.

Users earlier reported that the WhatsApp number didn’t seem to be working—sending messages to the number only results in a single tick, indicating that the message was not received.

The hotline was blocked by WhatsApp after allegedly infringing upon the following privacy-related terms of service;

“You will not use (or assist others in using) our services in ways that: (a) violate, misappropriate, or infringe the rights of WhatsApp, our users, or others, including privacy, publicity, intellectual property, or other proprietary rights.”

Health Minister, YB Datuk Seri Dr. Dzulkefly Ahmad issued a statement in response;

Kenyataan Akhbar Menteri Kesihatan Malaysia Berkenaan Sekatan Ke Atas Talian Hotline Larangan Merokok

Posted by KEMENTERIAN KESIHATAN MALAYSIA on Selasa, 18 Jun 2019

Essentially, the minister acknowledges that the hotline was down at the time, and that there are plans to discuss the issue with Facebook (WhatsApp’s parent company).

But it’s up and running now

However, when I added the hotline number (010-860-8949) and sent a quick message over I was given an automated reply almost immediately. That was quick.

If you haven’t heard already, the grace period for the ban against smoking at eateries or other prohibited areas has been extended till the end of the year. Previously, the “educational enforcement period” was due to expire by the end of June, with the law taking effect from the start of 2019.

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The smoking ban applies to a 3-metre radius of all eateries (including outdoor mamaks) and those caught infringing on the law will be subject to fines of up to RM10,000 or 2 years jail time, while restaurant owners also face a fine of up to RM2,500.