The Anne Arundel Medical Center in Maryland announced that it will not hire anyone who smokes or use tobacco.
While some people might find the new hiring policy discriminatory, the act is legal in many states in the United States. According to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation, 81.6 percent of the U.S. population lives in "workplaces, and/or restaurants, and/or bars, by either a state, commonwealth, or local law" that have smoking bans. As of January 2014, 28 states implemented a statewide smoking ban including Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, and more.
Maryland's smoking ban took effect in February 2008. A no-smoking policy was implemented in all public transportation vehicles, enclosed public places and workplaces, including bars, restaurants, casinos, and private clubs. However, patients were allowed to smoke inside the hospital when authorized by doctors.
This non-smoker hiring is beneficial to the employers as it will reduce their healthcare expenses and encourage a more productive workforce. Last year, a study published by the Ohio State University concluded that smokers cost their employers $6,000 more each year compared to the non-smokers. Researchers attributed the extra costs to more time off, smoking breaks, and added health care costs.
Applicants for the Anne Arundel Medical Center will undergo a urine test to check for nicotine traces beginning this month. Current employees who smoke will not be affected as they were hired prior to the new screening rule. However, beginning July 1, no one should be smoking anywhere in the hospital grounds and nearby areas including public sidewalks, parking lots, and garages.
The hospital researchers spent two years analyzing the scenario before recommending the smoking ban.
"We're doing this to improve the health status of our community," Julie McGovern, the center's vice president of human resources, told the Baltimore Sun. "It's a serious obligation we have ... and one of the important steps we can take to be a role model."
The new hiring rule received criticisms arguing that employers do not have to control how their employees deal with their health in the workplace.
"Everyone has an outlet," said Nickia Trafton, an employee for Mercy Medical Center, to Baltimore Sun. "Cigarettes are sold over the counter - it's not illegal. ... My smoking doesn't interfere with my patients."