Thursday, February 07, 2013

How Does Refusing to Hire People Who are Trying to Quit Smoking Set a Good Example for the Public?

Since January 1, a number of major hospitals and health systems have implemented a policy of refusing to hire anyone who uses nicotine - in any form. This includes cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, or even electronic cigarettes or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

For example:

Beebe Medical Center (Lewes, DE) will not hire anyone who uses nicotine. The policy went into effect on January 1, 2013.

Also on January 1, Children's of Alabama Hospital (Birmingham,  AL) instituted a nicotine-free hiring policy.

Effective on March 1, Hendrick Health System (Abilene, TX) will stop hiring anyone who uses nicotine.

According to an article at, the purpose of the nicotine-free hiring policy at Hendrick Health System is to set a good example for the community: "Officials say this is a move toward being a role model for the community. "The ultimate goal is really to promote wellness and set a good example for the patients and the community we serve," said Maribeth Bunn, RN and wellness director."

The Rest of the Story

In what way does refusing to hire people who are trying to quit smoking using NRT or electronic cigarettes set a good example for the community?

If anything, one would think that a hospital or health care system would want to encourage, rather than punish people for trying to quit smoking.

How does a hospital serve as a role model for the community by ripping up the applications of smokers who are following doctors' advice and using nicotine replacement in an effort to quit? How exactly does punishing these quit efforts promote wellness?

It just strikes me that there is something else going on here. The stated justifications for these policies are so poor that it makes me think that there is an ulterior motive. And I believe that motive is an underlying desire to punish smokers, to make a moral judgment, and to cast dispersion on a way of life with which these businesspeople don't agree.

This is not about protecting the public's health. It is all about moralizing, castigating, and punishing.

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