Deputy minister: Circular aimed at Health Ministry’s male staff merely to promote healthy lifestyle

Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye holding up a ‘No Smoking’ poster during a press conference in Ipoh March 8, 2019. ― Picture by Farhan Najib
Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye holding up a ‘No Smoking’ poster during a press conference in Ipoh March 8, 2019. ― Picture by Farhan Najib

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 9 — Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye today denied that a circular meant for Health Ministry’s male employees, in which they were told attend a Smokers Screening Program, was meant to stereotype or witch hunt for smokers.

The circular, which was shared on social media, said male employees who failed the screening, which includes a breathalyzer to detect carbon monoxide gas and a dental check, will be sent to a quit-smoking programme.

According to the circular, dated yesterday, The Smokers Screening Programme (Program Saringan Merokok) organised by the ministry’s Disease Control Division, indicated that the test will be held today (Oct 9), from 8:30 am to 4pm.

Lee clarified that it was merely a healthy lifestyle programme for Health Ministry’s staff.

“This is not stereotypinglah. In fact, we have an ongoing healthy lifestyle programme for all the staff in the ministry headquarters where we promote a healthy lifestyle.

“So in this programme, actually, we screened those staff who are smokers and will assist them in reducing or stop smoking if possible,” he told reporters at the Parliament lobby today.

Asked why only male employees are involved, Lee said that the majority of smokers are male, while saying that female smokers could also enroll in the programme.

Lee denied the circular was meant to be sexist, targeting only males.

“From statistics, also we find out that the majority of Malaysian smokers are male. I think we are looking at a four to one or three to one ratio. So that’s where we are focusing.

“Anyway our screening is just more of targeting, it’s not about stereotyping not about being sexist. It’s about those who are more vulnerable,” he said.

Contrary to the circular, Lee said it is not compulsory for those who failed the test to join the MQuit stop smoking service, an intervention program by the ministry to help them stop smoking.

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