What you need to know before lighting a cigarette in these Asian countries. Source: Shutterstock.

SMOKING is a looming health epidemic, and Asian countries are taking measures against smoking.

In addition to banning tobacco advertising and slapping graphic images of smoking health hazards on cigarette packaging, a handful of Asian countries have also regulated smoking in indoor public places and more recently, some outdoor public places as well.

This includes children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, carparks, markets, al fresco dining areas, and more.

Last week, the Malaysian Health Ministry announced it would be making smoking at open-air mamak and hawker stalls illegal from December.

The motion was tabled during a sitting at the Parliament by Deputy Health Minister Dr. Lee Boon Chye under the Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017.

“This gazettement is Malaysia’s commitment as a member state to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and adheres to the guidelines under Article 8 of the World Health Organisation (WHO),” The Star Online quoted him as saying.

Currently, Malaysia’s Control of Tobacco Product (Amendment) Regulations 2017 prohibits smoking in 21 areas including hospitals, public toilets, lifts, government premises as well as air-conditioned shops and offices. Others include parks and government premises.

It carries a penalty of RM10,000 (US$2,409) or a jail term of not more than two years.

Here are the other countries that have further strengthened some of the strictest tobacco regulation in Asia:


In July 2016, the island city-state restricted smoking in hawker centers, coffee shops, cafes, and fast food outlets. Establishments with an al fresco dining area are allowed to set aside 10 – 20 percent of the area for smoking, but they would have to be clearly marked to avoid confusion.

The regulations were later extended to bus interchanges and shelters, public toilets, public swimming complexes, entertainment nightspots, all children’s playgrounds, exercise areas, markets, underground and multi-story carparks, ferry terminals and jetties.

It was also extended to non-air conditioned areas in offices, factories, shops, shopping complexes and lift lobbies.

Smoking in Asia

Source: Shutterstock.

Rule breakers will be fined SGD200 (US$145) while the owners of the establishments are fined SGD200 (US$145) and SGD500 (US$363) for a subsequent offense.

Singapore is now looking to phase out tobacco by preventing the supply of tobacco to Singaporeans born from the year 2000.


50 years ago, around half of Japanese smoked. That has now dropped to 18 percent and smoking areas have been dramatically restricted.

There are no set smoke-free regulations in Japan but smoking is forbidden on the streets of the Chiyoda, Shinagawa, Shinjuku and Nakano wards of Tokyo for reasons of child safety and Tokyo’s wards have the ability to fine people for smoking on the streets.

It is also generally understood that smoking is prohibited on public transport and subway platforms, while above ground train station platforms typically have smoking areas.

Smoking in Tokyo, Japan

Source: Shutterstock.

In 2010, Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture implemented the nation’s first prefecture-wide smoking ban, banning smoking in public facilities, including hospitals, schools, and government offices. It requires large restaurants and hotels to choose whether to become nonsmoking or create separate smoking areas.

Three months ago, the Japanese capital city of Tokyo passed a tough anti-smoking law that will effectively ban smoking in most of the city’s bars and restaurants in the run-up to the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Hong Kong

Under the government’s Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance (Cap. 371), first enacted in 1982, smoke-free regulations to include indoor workplaces, most public places including restaurants, internet cafes, public lavatories, beaches, and most public parks.

It was later extended to some bars, karaoke parlors, saunas, nightclubs, lifts, public transportations, cinemas, concert halls, airport terminals, escalators, shopping centers, department stores, supermarkets, banks, and game arcades.

On the cross-border trains between Hong Kong and mainland China, however, smoking in the restaurant car and the vestibules at the end of the cars are allowed but not in the seating area.

Any person who smokes or carries a lighted tobacco product in a no smoking area will be fined a maximum fine of HKD5,000 (US$637).

However, the Hong Kong government has yet to clarify how this will be enforced against non-Hong Kong ID cardholders and tourists since the offender has 21 days after the ticket issue to pay up.


There are approximately 57 million smokers in Indonesia. Of Indonesian people, 63 percent of men and five percent of women reported being smokers, a total of 34 percent of the population.

The smoking restrictions started in the Indonesian capital city of Jakarta, which banned smoking in the mega-metropolis’ restaurants, hotels, office buildings, airports, public transportations, and overall public areas.

Restaurants which want to allow smoking were required to provide a separate smoking space, but only half of the establishments have built separate facilities for smokers.

Smoking in Asia

Source: Shutterstock.

Smoke-free regulations were later extended to Indonesia’s paradise island, Bali. This affected restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, traditional and modern markets, schools, government buildings, public transportation, places of worship and other public places.

Smokers caught doing the deed in smoke-free zones can be reported to the authorities and carries a penalty of IDR50,000 (US$3.36) or a jail term of three months.

South Korea

The rules for smoking was not always strict in South Korea, but after discovering that male smoking is among the highest at 36.2 percent among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, it was clamped down.

The government aims to take down male smoking rate to the OECD average of 29 percent by 2020 by making the country one of the world’s most difficult places to smoke.

This includes significant price hikes, mandatory warning photos on cigarette packs, advertising bans, financial incentives and medical help for quitting.

Smoking is now illegal and strictly prohibited in all bars and restaurants, cafes, internet cafes, government buildings, kindergartens, schools, universities, hospitals, youth facilities, libraries, children’s playgrounds, and private academies.

It is also not allowed at subway or train stations and their platforms and underground pathways, large buildings, theaters, department stores or shopping malls, large hotels and highway rest areas.

The ban also entails a KRW100,000 (US$88.78) fine and up to KRW5 million (US$4,439) fine on shop owners not following the law.


In November 2002, Thailand rolled out indoor smoking restrictions in all indoor air-conditioned establishments (except entertainment areas) throughout the country.

Tobacco advertising was banned, and cigarettes were required to display graphic pictures since 2005.

Further restrictions were announced in February 2008, banning smoking in both indoor and outdoor establishments open to the public including restaurants, bars, and open-air markets.

Those who fail to comply will be fined THB2,000 (US$60) while establishments face a TBH20,000 (US$609) fine for not enforcing the ban, including not displaying mandated “No smoking” signs. They may also be arrested.

Smoking in Asia

Source: Shutterstock.

Thailand also banned smoking on 20 popular tourist beaches last year in its bid to end pollution caused by discarded cigarette butts. Those caught lighting up could face a year’s imprisonment.


This remote Himalayan Kingdom, fondly known as the happiest country in the world, made headlines for becoming the first country in the world to go entirely smoke-free.

In 2004, the national assembly of Bhutan banned the sale of tobacco throughout the country as well as smoking in public places, private offices, and recreation centers like bars and pubs.

Under the law, any individual found selling tobacco can face imprisonment for a period of three to five years.

Bhutan also passed the Tobacco Control Act in 2010, under which smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco became a non-bailable offense.

Those in possession of tobacco could face imprisonment for a minimum of three years if the person is unable to produce a receipt declaring payment of import duties for the products.

Lainey Loh

Lainey Loh | @laineyx

A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.

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