Healthcare News & Insights

Hospital rejects new hires who smoke

If you smoke, it could cost you your next job.

Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga, Tennessee has started testing new hires for tobacco use, along with other standard drug tests. Anyone who tests positive will have their job offer withdrawn.

Current workers aren’t affected by the new policy.

The hospital is making the move to provide a healthier environment for workers and patients — and to save the estimated $3,000 to $4,000 per year in health care costs that smokers ring up.

It’s similar to the policy at a handful of other hospitals, including the Cleveland Clinic.

Some critics say the policy is discriminatory — after all, no one is testing to see how much exercise new hires get or if they indulge in too many between-meal chocolate bars.

But even some workers say the prospect of losing out on a job is good motivation to quit.

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  1. At first I applauded Cleveland Clinc as I am a helathcare worker who doesn’t smoke and I see how many breaks the smoker gets verses a non-smoker. But then I thought a little…if they can do that to smokers, what says they will not do that later for overwejght staff or diabetics etc Those issues have substantial healthcare costs involved with them too. And I would not want to be discriminated against a job for being a bit over weight or having diabetes high blood pressure or cancer etc.

  2. Doug Middlebrook says:

    I am a smoker and I currently work in the IT field at a rural hospital. We too are going to non-smoking on facility properties.
    I do not have a problem with the new policy with the exception of, now if you clock out, go off grounds and come back smelling like smoke in any way, you will be asked to go home and take a shower and change clothes…That is where I think the legal issues begin!
    I am also concerned because we have more overweight people working here than smokers, so whats next?
    I know all the smokers and almost all are trying to quit. I think they should get the benefit of the doubt!!!!
    While others drink to much or over indulge in food or junk food is also a health concern but I don’t see any vending machines being moved out of the facilities!

  3. Is this legal? Did anyone check with HR first? If it is, maybe we could apply that police at our hospital.

  4. I think it is very unprofessional to have a nurse smelling tobacco, and coughing while screening or talking to patients…. now regarding other diseases, that are raisng concerns, like diabetes, obesity, hypertension, yes it could be of concerns if it interferes with the job description.. you cannot hire a blind driver, a deaf telephonne operator, an amputee fire fighter, or an overweight nurse in an obesity clinic if it affects the job performance…. than this is not discrimination
    I had as an employer smoker clerks who never took a break for smoking, never had a smell of tobacco, and was a hard worker, and on other occasion I had a smoker nurse who was continuously coughing and was smelling enough smoke to cause COPD and cancer to her collegues

  5. Karen Grinmanis, MS/Ed, RN says:

    Smoking is not ln illegal, does not usually infere with job performance, and is a personal choice allbeit an unhealthy one. This practice is discriminatory.
    I am a former smoker and never missed a day of work for illness related to smoking. Actually, was absent from work only 3 times in the last 5 years and not a single absence was because I smoked .

  6. I don’t think the issue is the smoking itself or a person’s right to do so if he or she chooses. The repercussions of smoking are more the issue. In the health care field, it is not appropriate for staff/providers to reek of smoke while providing care. It’s the product of smoking – the SMOKE – that is the offending factor and the result. A smoker’s cough is pretty disctinctive and recognizable sight unseen. The clothing of smokers smells, purses, breath, hair – it’s offensive. It also makes it difficult for a health care clinic to encourage smoking cessation if it it obvious (which is it to non-smokers when in the presence of a smoker) that the concept isn’t even employed by the providers &/or staff.

    For all actions there are consequences. For smokers, you are free to smoke. Just be willing to deal with the associated consequences of your actions.

  7. It’ s funny that Annoyed says all theses things are offensive but yet I can go out and have a smoke and I have had people tell me that they would never had known if I did not tell them…Now, on that note, I also agree in a lot of ways that Annoyed is correct with some people!! I have found that the worst critic is the “ex-smoker” who is now some sort of saint because they have decided to quit!!!
    I personally am in good shape, I can run, I can walk, I can climb mountains when I am hunting or fishing, I do golf and I do NOT have a so called smokers cough!!!! Oh and I smoke a pack of ciggs a day!!! I quit drinking 14 years ago but I don’t give drinkers garbage about thier habits, bad or not!

  8. Karen Grinmanis, MS/Ed, RN says:

    Although the “SMOKE” odor is offensive, it is still a discriminatory practice. As stated in other responses, where will it stop? There are obese health care providers, obesity is not healthy. So does that mean the person should not be a health care provider or hired to work?

  9. This is all about the rights of every person. Smokers have the right to smoke as non smokers have the right to not have to be in the presence of smoke. I work in the healthcare field and was treating a patient last week that was in the midst of a rather severe asthma attack. The patient was responding well to the inhaler until a nurse came in the room, that had just came back from break and had smoked on her break. The patient immediately began having breathing issues and ended up being admitted to the hospital for breathing treatments. I am sure this patient would have loved to be given the chance to not have to go through further treatment but her rights were taken away because her nurse smoked during her break. A patient that has never smoked in her life is now paying for health care brought on by a smoker who was “taking” care of her.
    Smoke your brains out as long as it does not negate the rights of others.

  10. Where is individual freedom going in this country? I find it hard to believe that someone who had a cig on break is going to aggrevate someones breathing problems when they come back to work. Are we going to start telling doctors who smoke or who are over weight that because they aren’t perfect they can not be doctors? I know many who wouldn’t be able to practice. We already have wide spread drug testing even when there is no reason to think the person can not do their job. Soon it will be if you have any type of disease it will be okay to discriminate in employment. I’m tired of hearing about the diabetic epidemic. My family has diabetics on all sides. Type I & type II, skinny as a rail and not so skinny. I think the real truth is that it is possible for a diabetic to live longer and that increases the numbers. I know this covers many topics but they all fall in together and tick me off.