Nicotine Addicts Ineligible For Hospital Jobs 1/1/11

Two Florida hospitals have joined the growing number of hospitals that want a drug-free workforce - a category which increasingly includes the addictive and deadly drug nicotine - both to save up to $12,000/yr per worker and to protect their image
By: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Dec. 31, 2010 - PRLog -- Two Florida hospitals have joined the growing number of hospitals and other businesses that want a drug-free workforce - a category which increasingly includes the addictive and deadly drug nicotine - both to save up to $12,000/yr for every worker, but also because using nicotine is seen as inappropriate if not incompatible with the organization's health-related mission.,0,1254604,full.story

These two new converts, which are eagerly being watched by still more hospitals likewise thinking of not hiring smokers, base their new policies on one in effect in Ohio for more than three years which happily reported that testing applicants for nicotine "really hasn't affected our applicant pool like we thought it might."

Such policies are also being increasingly supported by the public, which often oppose spending company money to encourage smokers to quit, and also opposes any punishment or similar hiring policies related to other health concerns such as obesity.

Trying to use carrots rather than sticks can be very costly and not very effective, whereas a new hiring policy costs nothing and will definitely slash the enormous health care costs imposed on the company by smokers.

"Smoking causes the same dramatic increase in costs of medical care, disability, etc. - whether done on or off the job - and adversely affects the image of the health care organization when patients or visitors are forced to interact with employees whose clothing or breath reek of tobacco smoke," notes public interest law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), which has successfully defended the legality and fairness of such policies.

Actual court testimony taken under oath shows that each smoking employee who is hired can cost the business over $12,000/yr; a huge burden which otherwise is often borne by nonsmoking workers in the form of lower wages, less health insurance protection, etc.

This is grossly unfair to the large majority of workers who do not smoke, argues Banzhaf, so that a drug-free workforce policy may be fairer to most of the workers than continuing to hire employees who smoke.

No one would question the moral or legal right of animal rights organizations to decline to hire people who hunt on weekends, of women's rights groups which do not hire men who visit strip clubs during their free time, or of civil rights organizations which refuse to hire applications who belong to private clubs which discriminate.  Thus it would seem equally reasonable for hospitals and other health-related organizations not to hire people who use nicotine.

The arguments in favor of such a policy are even stronger if customers or other visitors to the workplace can readily tell if the employees' private behavior conflicts with the organization's mission.  That's why health clubs and weight loss organizations often decline to employ the obese, says Banzhaf.

Similarly, health organizations would hardly tolerate employees wearing t-shirts or pins supporting the "recreational" use of marijuana, unprotected sex, not washing hands, euthanasia, or alcohol abuse - even if these activities were to be done outside of normal work hours.  Since smokers often broadcast their addiction by the odor of tobacco smoke on their breath, clothing, or hair, it might be considered the equivalent of wearing a t-shirt promoting smoking, suggests Banzhaf.

Although laws in a number of states purport to limit the right of employers to decline to hire smokers, they are rarely if ever enforced, and are also full of loopholes, as both ASH and the American Medical Association (AMA) have pointed out.  There are also many ways to achieve a smokefree workforce - similar to a drugfree workforce -without violating any of these laws, argues Banzhaf.

The health care debates, coupled with the resulting federal statute, are forcing all companies to reconsider their policies in light of the enormous totally unnecessary expense smoking imposes on businesses, even those without a health-related mission.

That's probably why companies as diverse as Alaska Airlines, the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Kalamazoo Community College in Michigan, Weyco, a Michigan-based benefits administration company, and Scotts Miracle Gro have - like the WHO - stopped hiring smokers.  Indeed, looking ahead, CBS-TV hailed Scott's policy as a "national model" and a "new reality."

Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
701 4th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001, USA
(202) 659-4310 // (703) 527-8418

# # #

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first anti-smoking and nonsmokers' rights organization, serves as the legal action arm of the anti-smoking community. It is supported by tax-deductible contributions.
Source:Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Tags:Hospital, Smokers, Hire, Banzhaf, Smokefree, Drugfree, Discriminate, Health, Image
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Page Updated Last on: Dec 31, 2010
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