Smokers unite; you have nothing to lose but your jobs

As bans on smoking sweep the US, an increasing number of employers – primarily hospitals – are also imposing bans on smokers, according to a story by Wendy Koch for USA Today.

These employers will not hire applicants whose urine tests positive for nicotine use, whether the nicotine has come from cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or pharmaceutical patches.

Smoking Butler

Gerard Butler inhales cigarette smoke

“We have to walk the walk if we talk the talk,” says Dave Fotsch of Idaho’s Central District Health Department, which voted last month to stop hiring smokers.

And Marcy Marshall of the Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pennsylvania, which begins its nicotine-free hiring next month, said: “We’re trying to promote a complete culture of wellness”.

But such policies don’t go down too well even in some parts of the public health community.

“These policies represent employment discrimination,” said Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University’s School of Public Health. “It’s a very dangerous precedent.”

Siegel made the point that such a policy punished smokers rather than helped them quit.

Twenty nine states and the District of Columbia have passed smoker-protection laws, though some of these exempt non-profit groups and the health care industry; but 21 states have no rules against nicotine-free hiring.

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