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Penn Health System to stop hiring smokers

10:29 pm by | 35 Comments

no smoking

The University of Pennsylvania Health System will no longer hire smokers and other tobacco users, starting in July.

The system, which includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the policy would improve the health of its workforce and reduce the cost of health-care benefits.

A job applicant must be tobacco-free for six months. New employees, including doctors, who are caught lying about their tobacco use may be fired.

Current employees are not subject to the prohibition, but they already pay a higher premium on their health-care benefits if they are tobacco users and are not participating in free antitobacco programs offered by the system.

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In 2012, about 11 percent of employees who were part of the system's health-insurance program declared themselves as tobacco users. Their surcharge is $15 every two weeks.

The details are outlined on the system's website at www.pennmedicine.org/careers/working-at-penn-medicine/tobacco-free.html.

Citing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the system said smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to 443,000 premature deaths a year and cost $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity.

"Employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year for health care. In addition, smoke breaks during work may be disruptive and subject patients/colleagues to the unpleasant smell of smoke on employees' scrubs and clothing," the system said on its website.

Penn's system, which has 17,500 employees, said it was following the lead of the Cleveland Clinic, which introduced a tobacco-free hiring policy in 2007. Other health institutions have followed.

The policy, made public Jan. 1, will not affect new hires working in New Jersey because state law prohibits such restrictions.

Because of recruitment and notification issues, new fellows and residents will not be subject to the policy until July 2014.

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Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or [email protected], or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter. ___

Copyright 2014 MedCity News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

By Moran, Robert

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35 comments
Deborahnellie
Deborahnellie

Wow! Micheal and mrskmt2, should we stop drinking coffee so we don't get coffee breath? I'm a non-smoking Registered Nurse. I work in a hospital. I don't like the smell either. When I was laboring with my first child the nurse came in after a smoke break and I nearly vomited. However, smoking is legal and is with us to stay. Micheal how wonderful for you that you are not addicted to anything. I hope for your sake you never are. Imagine living with the self-hatred you will endure because of your weakness.

BenjaminGates70
BenjaminGates70

I fully am in support of this decision. As a comment here made mention, smokers really are drug addicts. Nicotine is a drug. I'm a non smoker and I don't want my health put at risk because someone who has no caring in their heart, decides to fill the air around me with dangerous chemicals. Many times over and over at the job, I have to tell someone who is smoking in an area that they are not supposed to smoke to get away from me, as I also have asthma. And they get upset. Amazing how smokers don't care about anyone, except themselves. Actually, to destroy your body shows you don't respect yourself at all. If you're going to ruin your health and die, fine. You're not taking me with you.

Leah
Leah

I work for a hospital and have seen more patients admitted for obesity related than any other issue. Smokers are declining and obesity is overwhelming. How long will it be before insurance companies and employers start cracking down on these people? Oh, wait, that's discrimination. Alcoholism is also out of control. I think employers and insurers have a lot more to be worried about than the minority of smokers left in this country. As far as the offensive odor, I am around many more offensive aromatic people from perfumes, food odors, after shave, poor hygiene, etc, than I am smoke aromas. Last I checked tobacco is not illegal. Nor is overeating alcoholism or laziness.

Mantw Egglezopoulou
Mantw Egglezopoulou

I believe that not hiring smoking it should be a means of providing incentives to the employees of the hospital. If some employees are smoking more and more, they will have less rewards.  When you go out so often to enjoy...your cigarette....you do not attach your goals in your job. Not allowed in the hospital smelling cigarette smoke. I am watching..... What are you doing in Ministries of Health in the world?

KatieRiendeauWhiteman
KatieRiendeauWhiteman

Not hiring smokers is not discrimination. People can not help the color of their skin, race, or sex.  People also can not help if they have a disability.  You can help if you smoke or not !  I'm not sure why we are fighting against something that would be good for all of us.  I'm glad my children will grow up in a society that does not tolerate smoking.  It will hopefully prevent them from dying from this horrible addiction.    

mrskmt02
mrskmt02

I use to smoke-smoked for 15 years & am still wishing my husband would quit.  I feel there is nothing wrong w/demanding smoke free health care providers!  I personally HATE IT when I HAVE to smell the disgusting odor on coworkers after they come back in from smoking-it's offensive!  I'm sure if I CHOSE not to shower for a couple weeks, I'd get a good talking to about my offending coworkers, but on a daily basis am subjected to offensive odors from coworkers who CHOOSE to smoke.  It's not even close to being grouped in w/being over weight or food selection discrimination.  And for the record, I DO have to pay more on insurance because I'm over weight (something I'm working on).  There is NO good attribute at all with cigarette smoking!  It is a known carcinogen!!  It should not even be legal IMO.

COPDdoc
COPDdoc

@ImpressLung @lunguk @elinlowri @medcitynews Maybe soon, once NHS replaced by a US style punitive insurance based system

Reanen Michael
Reanen Michael

Hmmm let's see, I think opponents to this are hiding behind their "rights". Lets call smokers EXACTLY what they are, drug addicts. They are literally to function on a productive professional level without nicotine on board. How many hours a week are lost in productivity, quality and merit at work because a smoker NEEDS to go get their fix. At my private practice office, in my experience, smokers are more likely to be unfriendly, unprofessional and non productive when they are not able to smoke. Bottom line keep your addiction at home and work like the rest of us, otherwise, NO JOB!!!!

notasmokerbuticare
notasmokerbuticare

I'm appalled and disgusted that **discrimination** is allowed to exist --so flagrantly--in 2013!!

Had you replaced the word "smoker" with "Black" or "Homosexual" it would be in a class-action suit right now. 

Smokers being subject to unacceptable levels of discrimination. 

If the Health System is so concerned about the cancer risks driving up costs, why aren't they concerned about the toxic air, soil and water that are causing innumerable amounts of cancer? There are documented studies on scores of non-smokers who have developed lung or other cancers completely unrelated to second-hand smoke.  The cancer rate for everyone has skyrocketed in the last few decades, while the number has smokers has drastically diminished.  Yet no one is concerned about the fact that our polluted environment is killing us.

I hope that there are savvy attorneys out there who file a class-action on this issue and put a stop to this systemic discrimination.

Randy
Randy

This is where we're spiraling headlong as a country. I believe the majority of people shake their heads in disgust and disbelief at this kind of discrimination...yet as long as we sit idly by and just watch, this path is becoming permanently etched in our society and we aren't far from the point of no return. I doubt I'm alone when I say that I wouldn't want to work for a company that discriminates in any fashion, and whether people want to acknowledge it or not, choosing not to hire a person based on personal health decisions is discriminatory. What a horrible example these people are setting.

KatieRiendeauWhiteman
KatieRiendeauWhiteman

People have a right to choose what they put in their bodies.  Companies have a right to choose who they hire.  Diabetes is also a preventive disease.   Do we care about people's health or a person's right to choose.  Not everyone has a good work ethic who smokes.  I also did not let my smoking habits effect my work.  I'm glad I don't smoke anymore and I'm glad companies are taking a stand to encourage better choices.  I worked with many people who could not work for long amounts of time without smoking and it did effect their jobs and they were good at what they were doing except they had to take a break every half hour.   

Ellen
Ellen

Really? Really? I guess companies should stop hiring fat people who are fat because they eat too much out of choice? Maybe companies should start monitoring what people eat: Oh, you eat way too much cheese. Fat's not good for you. We're not hiring you! What about people with chronic heath issues? Geez, is it not enough that we are drug tested, have our credit checked, and have a felony background check? What's next? I don't even want to know.

Outraged Non Smoker
Outraged Non Smoker

It's outright discrimination. I no longer smoke by my own choice. Even when I did, it didn't cost my employer a single red cent, since I already have health insurance from military retirement. By my own work ethic, I never smoked at work either, so where does the invasion into our personal lives stop? I would expect that irresponsible drinking causes more problems than smoking. Smoke free campuses are great and I don't like smoke where food is served either. What needs to happen is a closer audit of responsible medical research, especially by pharmaceutical goliaths and a reduction with interfering helathcare policies that force physicians to perform uneeded testing. Then health insurance costs could be reduced.

Yosemas
Yosemas

I will sue them to death. If people admit this kind of stupidities, next one is they won't be hired because they happen to eat a McDonalds every now and then...

Chimnie Matthews MBA
Chimnie Matthews MBA

The Methodist Hospital System in Houston does this now....it is sad. Someone who can explain a felony can get a job, but a smoker is next? So, will they stop hiring anyone with a BMI of 35% or higher? I mean, some doctors and nurses are fat or obese. What about diabetics? Will they not be hired also?

KatieRiendeauWhiteman
KatieRiendeauWhiteman

Tobacco continues to be the number one killer of all the drugs in this country.  I think it's about time we take a serious look at this problem.  I work in the drug and alcohol field with people struggling addiction.  This is usually the drug that takes their lives.  I'm and ex-smoker so I understand.  I don't like going to the hospital where the people taking care of me smell of smoke.  Second hand smoke also kills 65,000 people every year in this country.  Seems like we could be putting our money that pays for the hospital bills to better use.  Like finding a cures for cancer or other diseases we get that are beyond our control.

 

MaryCValko
MaryCValko

I think its a great idea and I would like for all hospitals to enforce this

DougPatten
DougPatten

Phoebe Putney Health System in SW Georgia adopted "tobacco free" hiring policy over 3 years ago. It has actually proven to have positive recruitment benefit. Applies to any new hire, including docs.

Damalya Arisa Sindhu
Damalya Arisa Sindhu

I have to agree with this. As a matter of facts, smoking even outside the building can cause many risks to the patients & colleagues (2nd hand smokers) as well as the health facilities (cause of Fire). As healthcare professionals, they have to practise what they preach. If the posters about dangers of smoking are being shown anywhere, how can we trust their diagnoses when as a patient we caught them smoking outside the compound. People always wanted to feel assured they are at the safe hands when they visits the hospitals. However, firing those existing smokers can cause legal implication. Unless if the healthcare centre put "Smoking within the compound" as one of the serious misconduct. In order to work this out, the HR Department should sit down with Safety, Health & Risk Committee. Perhaps, they can start the "Quit Smoking Therapy" to help these people before the policy take place.

PhilippePerreten
PhilippePerreten

To smoke is not good but many things are not good. Many doctors and surgeons are smokers. Refuse them a cigarette and you will help your patient to die.

lrrykeho
lrrykeho

@SueFinkam charge them more for coverage but not hiring them at all is wrong & stupid.

lrrykeho
lrrykeho

@SueFinkam I don't smoke. I don't care for smokers. But this bothers me. Are alcohol drinkers next? Soda drinkers? Sugar users?

miss_angelique
miss_angelique

@isuckatrunning I wonder how they're going to enforce that. Seems tough. Random nicotine testing, maybe?

isuckatrunning
isuckatrunning

@isuckatrunning Actually, Univ of Penn, but interesting nonetheless...

ImpressLung
ImpressLung

@COPDdoc @lunguk @elinlowri @medcitynews Cleveland takes external role support community's health + wellbeing seriously so not punitive

caren
caren

you talk about smokers taking breaks to get there fix, but what is the difference when you have a bunch of non smokers on the internet all day looking at the news or facebook all day long. That is a break that takes place all day long. Also as a smoker I am never absent from work and at the end of the day my job is done!!!! The non smokers who work with me call out every other week and are on the internet all day long watching the news and walking around the office chatting with other employees which is also a break!!!! I am sick of people talking about smokers. what about obese people, people who drink, people who text and drive????

SueFinkam
SueFinkam

@lrrykeho I wonder how much they've set aside for legal fees to defend this decision.

SueFinkam
SueFinkam

@lrrykeho I agree, and I abhor smoking. My guess is its based on dangers of 2nd hand smoke for patients.

isuckatrunning
isuckatrunning

@miss_angelique I agree, tho I can smell smoke on coworkers when they come back from taking a break. They would have to be sneakeir

COPDdoc
COPDdoc

@ImpressLung @lunguk @elinlowri @medcitynews There's a difference between offering energetic support to quit etc and not employing smokers.

lrrykeho
lrrykeho

@SueFinkam how would patients get second hand smoke, there's no smoking on hospital campuses?

medcitynews
medcitynews

@copddoc Agreed, and we need a lot more support for the former - should be city-wide programs

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