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At More U.S. Workplaces, Smokers Need Not Apply
Date:1/16/2012

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More than 392,000 people in the United States die each year from tobacco-caused disease, making it the leading reason of preventable death, according to the American Lung Association. Another 50,000 people die from exposure to secondhand smoke.

It's another way to get the message across that smoking is bad for your health, said pulmonologist Dr. Aditi Satti, director of the smoking cessation program at Temple University Hospital, in Philadelphia. But it's complicated, she said. "I think a pretty fine line runs between public health and personal liberties. Whether or not this is going to be an incentive, time will tell."

To ensure an applicant is tobacco-free, Geisinger will require anyone who is extended a job offer to take a nicotine screen, a urine test that detects cigarette, smokeless tobacco, snuff, nicotine patch, nicotine gum and cigar use, Marshall explained.

"It will be part of the routine drug screening," she said.

If the candidate fails the screening, Marshall said Geisinger's doors aren't closed forever. "They'll be welcome to apply for jobs again in six months," she said.

Some experts aren't confident that blocking smokers from jobs will motivate them to kick their habit.

"Tobacco use is a very powerful addiction. We don't support making smokers a protected class, but we also have great concerns about these punitive approaches," Billings said. "There's not a lot of data that shows this is an effective mechanism."

Siegel is against no-smoker hiring rules. "Despite being a pretty strong anti-smoking advocate and working in the health care field, I'm really opposed to these policies. It's a form of employment discrimination. Making decisions about hiring based on a group to which someone belongs rather than on their actual qualifications for the job, as a principle, is wrong," he said.

Siegel said once a company makes the argument not to hire a person in a particular group because it will cost the org
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