April 06, 2010 | | Comments 6
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Pennsylvania hospital won’t hire tobacco users

St. Luke’s Hospital & Health Network is screening applicants for tobacco use, and those who test positive won’t be eligible for employment, according to an article on PhillyBurbs.com, an online news source for Philadelphia residents. St. Luke’s recent policy change banning tobacco users from its ranks opens up a mighty big can of worms. Some tout the measure as a “win-win” because it is likely to reduce tobacco-related illness, thus saving the organization money and employees their health. However, others see it as an invasion of privacy.

The practice of limiting employment based on whether an individual uses tobacco is illegal 29 states, but 11 states allow employers to implement such policies, says the PhillyBurbs.com article. The article is unclear whether this new policy applies to St. Luke’s employed physicians,  but if this trend takes hold, credentialing specialists in states that allow employers to ban smokers may soon see a new checkbox on physician application forms (and be screened for tobacco use themselves).

What are your thoughts? Is it right to turn down a qualified applicant because he or she uses tobacco products?

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Elizabeth Jones About the Author: Elizabeth (Liz) Jones is an associate editor at HCPro. She writes and contributes to several monthly newsletters including Medical Staff Briefing, Hospitalist Leadership Advisor, and Credentialing and Peer Review Legal Insider. Liz graduated from Salem (MA) State College in 2003 with a B.A. in professional writing. Before joining HCPro, Liz wrote for a national monthly business publication where she gained experience in executive-level business and healthcare issues.

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  1. This policy created quite a stir at Ohio’s Cleveland Clinic when it was implemented back in 2007. It does include physicians there, but nicotine testing is performed by HR at hire. Not sure if it’s repeated after hire.

  2. i was systematialy fired for this and an looking for a lawyer!

  3. This is illegal

  4. I think it’s an excellent idea! As a non-smoker raised in a family of heavy smokers, I can see both sides of the issue, but the major point is, people DIE from tobacco use! It’s a form of prolonged suicide and if that isn’t bad enough, they expose innocent non-smokers to cancerous agents. It also raises insurance premiums substantially.

    The hospital at which I am employed does not deny employment to smokers at this time but they do not permit smoking on campus. It is not uncommon to see physicians and gowned patients standing out near the street to smoke. How a physician or nurse or anyone in the medical field can smoke is beyond me! Our hospital is starting some new programs to encourage better health among employees, including reduced insurance premiums. Maybe they should look into reducing them further for non-smokers as well.

  5. I think that there are better ways to encourage healthier practices among staff then firing and/or not hiring someone because they smoke. The hospital CAN mandate that smoking is not allowed when on company time other than that it is a violation of civil liberties. What’s next, not hiring someone because they have diabetes or hypertension or take psych meds?

  6. Wow, I am surprised that the Risk Management people did not block that decision – there may be ACLU objections unless they can prove that smoking even Off the job affects work performance. Are they blocking all those persons that consume alcohol also?
    If they are doing this on the basis of possible health care costs in the future, they also should not hire fat people, people with hypertension, family history of heart disease, etc.

    How does the American Disabilities Act factor into this, obviously tobacco addiction is a disability..the tobacco industry pays little into treating the addiction they cause..

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