KUALA LUMPUR: All male staff in the Health Ministry in Putrajaya had to attend a smoker’s screening test on Wednesday (Oct 9), according to an internal circular.
It involved a breath test to detect the presence of Carbon Monoxide gas and a dental check.
According to the circular, those found to be smoking will be asked to attend an intervention programme and will be referred to the ministry’s MQuit programme.
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye confirmed that the smoking screening test took place when met by reporters at the Parliament lobby on Wednesday, .
Despite only targeting male staff, Dr Lee denied that the ministry was being sexist and pointing out that the majority of smokers are men.
“From statistics, we found that a majority of Malaysian smokers are male. I think we are looking at a ratio of four-to-one. If female staff are smokers, I think their colleagues would know and they will be assisted.
“It’s not about stereotyping or being sexist. It’s about those who are more vulnerable.”
Dr Lee, however said that no action will be taken against staff members who refused to quit smoking through the ministry’s mQuit programme.
“We cannot take action, but we will advise. It is not under our jurisdiction to forbid people to smoke. However we will do whatever we can to encourage a healthy lifestyle and to assist them in whatever way possible to stop smoking.
“Certainly, we will try to enrol them (in mQuit), but there is no compulsion. If they refuse, we cannot force.”
Dr Lee also said that there is an ongoing healthy lifestyle programme for all staff at the Health Ministry’s headquarters.
“We are doing what we can and we encourage all workplaces to organise such a programme for their staff, ” he added.