Starting next year, Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis will require potential employees to pass a drug test–detecting nicotine.
This so-called “job screening” will bar any applicants who smoke cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, hookah, and even e-cigarettes from being eligible for employment. While the hospital already has a smoking ban on the premises and surrounding sidewalks, this policy forbids new employees from consuming tobacco anywhere, at any time.
“We’re doing this to improve the health status of our community,” said Human Resources Vice President Julie McGovern. “It’s a serious obligation we have … and one of the important steps we can take to be a role model.” She admitted, however, that while she expects health care costs to drop, that was not the primary motivation for the policy change. (RELATED: British Doctors Want To Permanently Ban All Cigarette Sales)
So-called “tobacco free hiring” policies are legal in nearly half the United States, allowing companies to treat tobacco like an illegal narcotic, despite its nationwide legality. In response 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws protecting smokers from such discrimination in the workplace. (RELATED: Feds Sue Wisconsin Company For Requiring Its Employees To Speak English)
“What about obese people, or if you weigh over a certain amount you are going to not be hired?” asked one phlebotomist smoker. “Smokers are not bad people.”
“We think it’s the right thing to do in trying to create a healthy population, ” said McGovern. “That’s our role.” The new policy affects only employees who ingest nicotine, and does not target the overweight or otherwise unhealthy.
“This is not a public health policy. It is a moral crusade,” said Community Health Sciences Professor Dr. Michael Siegel. “If it were a public health policy based on some sort of health principles, then it certainly would not penalize ex-smokers who quit using electronic cigarettes. In contrast, it would actually reward these individuals for having quit smoking and perhaps saved their lives.”
Despite e-cigarette fear-mongering that some activists have been stirring up since their release several years ago, calling for bans in public places and tight restrictions on sales and marketing, there is no proof that they are as dangerous as cigarettes, and many studies show that they are far safer. E-cigarettes are one of the most popular smoking cessation aids, with a recent study showing that smokers who use e-cigarettes while trying to quit are 60% more successful than those who go cold turkey, or use more traditional methods like nicotine patches.
“If the policy were based on health principles,” Dr. Siegel continued, “it would encourage smokers to quit, and therefore, it would reward smokers who are trying to quit using nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or electronic cigarettes, rather than exclude these individuals from employment.”