Health system implements non-smoking stipulation for job applicants

by: Nichole Gunn January 23, 2012

Companies across the country and even the world are no strangers to offering employee incentive programs hinged on completing assigned medical and other health-related tasks for rewards, but one company with health clinics across the country is making smoking a deal breaker when it comes to hiring prospective job candidates.

Geisinger Health System recently announced that beginning February 1, the clinic will no longer hire job applicants who use tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco and smokeless tobacco.

“Geisinger is joining dozens of hospitals and medical organizations across the country that are encouraging healthier living, decreasing absenteeism and reducing healthcare costs by adopting strict policies that make smoking a reason to turn away job applicants,” Richard Merkle, chief human resources officer at Geisinger Health System, said in a statement.

Although to the naked eye it may seen the company is discriminating against tobacco users, Merkle added non-nicotine hiring policies are legal in 20 states, including Pennsylvania, where Geisinger Health System has a presence.

Current employees are not affected by the new policy, as the company is looking to improve the overall health and wellness of its employee base moving forward. This move is expected to lower the health system's overall bottom line when it comes to healthcare premiums, as well as promote positive and healthy lifestyles among the workforce in an attempt to increase morale and productivity, as well as reduce the number of sick days taken.

“Smoking can be directly connected to life-threatening symptoms such as decreased oxygen to the heart, increased heart rate and blood pressure, increased blood clotting, and damage to cells that line coronary arteries,” said Thomas Isaacson, chief of cardiology at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center's Richard & Marion Pearsall Heart Hospital. “Important, too, is that smoking can adversely affect the health of others as well. In the U.S., about 35,000 people die each year from heart disease that is linked to exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.”

Isaacson added roughly 20 percent of all heart disease can be attributed to tobacco use, and it is the leading cause of coronary artery disease, increasing a person's risk of heart disease and heart attack with each cigarette smoked.

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