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Smokers Need Not Apply

Doylestown Township will no longer hire employees who use tobacco, joining other employers across the country seeking to lower healthcare costs.

 

Job seekers looking for work with Doylestown Township will need to snuff out the cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

That's because the township recently approved a personnel policy that would bar tobacco users from employment.

Township supervisors wanted to make sure they were on solid legal ground before they took the step of hiring only nicotine-free employees.

"Is there any liability to that?" Supervisor Ryan Manion asked when the board first considered the changes in April.

Their lawyer said the policy was legal in Pennsylvania.

"Smoking or non smoking has never been recognized as a protected class," township solicitor Jeff Garton told the board.

Pennsylvania is among 21 states that have no specific workplace discrimination protections for smokers. Legislators in 29 other states and the District of Columbia, however, have passed laws "elevating smokers to a protected class," according to the American Lung Association, which opposes such laws.

In Doylestown Township, any new government employee will be required to not use tobacco, which includes smoking cigarettes or using chewing tobacco or any other form, Supervisor Barbara Lyons said Tuesday.

This would apply both at work and at home.

The requirement will affect any new employee hired after January 1, 2012. The township doesn't plan to hire additional employees now, but township manager Stephanie Mason said they wanted the new policy in place when a position became vacant.

Current employees would not be forced to comply with the new policy, Garton said.

"Anyone who currently is employed who puffs away can continue to puff away," he said.

The five township supervisors - all Republicans - voted unanimously on May 1 to approve the policy, but one resident spoke out against it.

"I heard with concern the mention that after January 1 of this year, smokers are not eligible for employment," said Peter McLaughlin, a township resident who often attends supervisors' meeting.

"You’re doing yourself out of a smart, talented labor pool," he warned.

"Yeah, but we’re going to save a lot of money on our health policy," Lyons responded.

On Tuesday, Lyons said the township doesn't have hard numbers yet but expects to save at least 5 percent on its healthcare costs over the first 18 months that the policy is in effect.

McLaughlin also questioned how the township would know if someone was a closet smoker.

"It’s what the police chief would say is an unenforceable law," McLaughlin said.

 

A Growing Trend

 

Many employers offer wellness plans to encourage employees to lose weight or stop smoking. The move to ban tobacco users from employment completely, though, is a newer but increasingly more common approach to reducing healthcare costs.

Lyons said she got the idea for the township policy after reading about a hospital in the Midwest that decided to hire only smoke-free employees.

"It just makes sense, given everything we know now" about the harmful effects of tobacco, Lyons said.

Last year, the health insurance giant Humana decided to stop hiring tobacco users, following in the footsteps of the Cleveland Clinic, which stopped hiring smokers and other tobacco users in 2007.

Humana and the Cleveland Clinic both test new employees for nicotine use during a pre-employment urine drug screen.

Dr. Paul Terpeluk, Cleveland Clinic's medical director of Employee Health Services, explained the move in an op-ed piece for USA Today in January.

"We not only treat disease, but we also play a vital role in educating patients and employees about lifestyle choices," Terpeluk wrote. "It is only right to practice what we preach."

A USA Today editorial had argued that the ban was a step too far.

"If employers routinely reject people who engage in risky, but legal, behavior on their own time, what about such things as overeating or drinking too much alcohol?" the editorial read. "If smoker bans reduce health care expenses, cost-conscious employers might be tempted to stake out new and even more intrusive territory under the "wellness program" banner."

As for Doylestown Township, Lyons said no decision has been made yet about pre-hire testing for nicotine use. They will work with their insurer to determine the best course before any new job openings are posted, she said.

So what do you think? Should local businesses or local governments - which pay their employees' healthcare costs with public tax dollars - refuse to hire smokers?

Dan Kline May 09, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Next month you have a under 25 BMI.
Jeff Lugar May 09, 2012 at 12:41 PM
This is just pathetic. Hopefully PA will get on the ball and make smokers a protected class. If the government wants to declare them too dangerous and simply outlaw cigarettes in America (which will never happen due to states being addicted themselves to the taxes they collect per pack), fine, but otherwise leave smokers alone instead of demeaning and shunning them little by little.
catdad6 May 09, 2012 at 12:55 PM
I don't smoke but I used to. I think this is bad. An what's up with Republicans doing this? I thought you guys were all "get government out of peoples lives"
kevin May 09, 2012 at 01:01 PM
i'm not a smoker, but i have to agree that this is wrong. For one thing, where does it end, red meat, alcohol, hell people have been known to die while running marathons! They're also trying to tell people what to do outside of work? Just sit still at your desk and don't do anything risky(fun) now ya hear!
Joe F. May 09, 2012 at 01:36 PM
I love this idea. But who does that leave left to hire since about 80% of Pennsylvanians love to smoke.
Denise Jordan May 09, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Just the start of doing away with our "freedom" in this country. Pathetic. If employers don't let employees smoke during work hours, fine, BUT what they do on their personal time is just that PERSONAL.
Juma May 09, 2012 at 09:00 PM
The issue is non-smokers pay for smokers. I completely agree that employers should not hire smokers....or charge them a significant higher health insurance premium. ITS ABOUT THE MONEY!!!!! Money that governments and other employers don't have. Smokers are on record everywhere with expensive health problems.
Jeff Lugar May 09, 2012 at 09:55 PM
Yeah, but everyone pays for everyone else's lifestyle choices in insurance; it's not just smoking. If someone eats two Big Macs and fries for dinner every night, you pay for that. If someone never eats a salad and sits on the couch all day, you pay for that. If someone drinks heavily most nights, you pay for that. Smoking's just a convenient target.
DA May 10, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Am I to assume that obese people have been previously banned for hire? After all, obesity costs the US Healthcare system more than double what smoking costs.
Janie Landes May 10, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I know people that had Lung cancer and mouth cancer that never smoked a day in their life. I read about people that lived past 100 that abused alcohol, smoked and had terrible diets. I hate to think where such a law will lead us some day and I am not and have never been a smoker, but even I am against this. If they want to make a nonsmoking workplace, okay, do that by all means. Stop there though. Don't tell people what to do on their on time out of work unless you are also going to also tell them to not drink, eat unhealthy and abuse drugs. Expect to open a can of worms with this law. What country do I live in again? Land of the free? Is it?
Liberty 1 May 10, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Not to mention those anorexic vegans who do not eat a proper healthy dinner. Where does it end?
Toni Desrocher May 10, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Just terrible! Are they going to install cameras in your house and your car to make sure you aren't smoking? Watch out, people. Little by little we will lose every freedom we ever had if we allow this kind of thing to take place.
Tired of Hypocrisy May 10, 2012 at 09:44 PM
This is seriously discrimination. The Township Manager of Doylestown Township is morbidly obese. May we request that she not be permitted to eat any foods containing sugar, salt or other caleries until she loses at the least, 100 pounds. She is a health risk, perhaps the insurance company should take a look at her. She is a complete hypocrite and to have the nerve to be interviewed by a news station is laughable and embarrassing for the residents. Hopefully someone will sue for their rights and it will cost her and the others their jobs.
dot May 10, 2012 at 09:52 PM
i like to know what's next .if they take this right away ,what are they going to do next? it's just like taking the bible out of schools our world has gone down hill since .now they want to start taking our rights away .so plz tell me what's next on their list ,because this is just a start of more to come.
R. Cro Stitch May 10, 2012 at 11:39 PM
I think it's a wonderful idea. Smoking is a disgusting nasty addiction, smokers are the only addicts that share their addiction (second hand smoke) like if someone is shooting drugs in their veins it's not going into mine, if someone is chugging a bottle of vodka it's not going into me. Cheers to Doylestown township.
Jonik May 11, 2012 at 02:54 AM
Hmmm....Are Exhaust Breathers allowed to apply for, or get, jobs? How about those exposed to pesticides, dioxins, radiation, lead, mercury, GMO foods, mercury, encocrine disrupting substances in fabrics and plastics and so forth? How about those who eat non-organic foods or eat red meat three times a day?
Jonik May 11, 2012 at 03:07 AM
Funny how deceived smokers (who think and are told they just use tobacco) are being penalized, but those who "legally" put toxic and cancer-causing, fire-causing, addictiion-enhancing, kid-attracting, and numerous untested non-tobacco substances in typical cigarettes (with no labeling or specific warning) are let entirely off the hook. Not even brought to hearings to explain how it's ok to recklessly and intentionally endanger and harm so many. It's as if poisoning people is ok (if you are a big corporation), but BEING poisoned isn't. See http://fauxbacco.blogspot.com for a Smokers 101 on this topic.
John cope May 11, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Isn't smoking a good thing? Example: If you're smoking and driving you don't have enough hands left to text. What's next? I thought republicans wants less government in our lives too.
Jonik May 11, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Why the Smoke Ban crusades? 1) To as much as possible eliminate a public domain, natural, un-patented competitor to patented nicotine-delivery products. This is part of corporate war on public anything and everything. 2) To blame the victims by distracting from the dioxin-creating chlorine, the residues of many tobacco pesticides, the carcinogenic PO-210 radiation from the still legal use of certain phosphate tobacco fertilizers, and the many other toxic, untested, and un-labeled non-tobacco components of typical cigarettes. 3) To protect the cigarette industry (including its ingredient suppliers) from criminal and civil suits linked to those substances. 4) To protect the investors in all those businesses...including top for-profit health insurers which invest Billions of dollars in cigarette manufacturing alone, not to mention more in the pesticides, chlorine, paper, fertilizers and the rest. 5) Insurers do not want to lose profits by paying for the health care of those who are victims of those insurers' own investment properties. 6) To protect the "good name" of chlorine, the "life blood" of so many industries...pharms, oil, plastics, synthetic fabrics, paper, pesticides and so forth. If it became obvious that dioxins (chlorine by-products) were primary causes of so-called "smoking related" diseases, that would create huge liability suits and demands for stiff regulation of chlorine. 7) Even complicit officials can look as if they care about health. As if.
Jonik May 11, 2012 at 06:46 PM
About Smoking and driving: One reason tobacco has been used for about ten thousand years is that it prompts alertness...a good thing when driving. And, the change in the driving routine by lighting and having a smoke breaks the monotony on long drives. Tobacco, like other medicinal plants, is an appetite suppressant. Since eating can cause drowsiness, that's also a benefit to drivers...and to anyone else on or near the road. Since going Cold Turkey while in cars with children is becoming law in some places, it is necessary for medical professionals to weigh the risks, especially perhaps about how nicotine withdrawal can cause sleepiness, even sleep that comes without warning. In any case, officials' "concern for the kids" is not to be believed. After all, the dioxin in cigarette smoke (from chlorine pesticides and chlorine-bleached paper) is still legal as pie, with no specific warning label required, despite the fact that dioxin is particularly harmful to children...and to mothers and fetuses.
Harold J May 14, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Smoking rate for PA is more like 20%, not 80. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2010/09/14/us-smoking-rates-by-state
Harold J May 14, 2012 at 01:13 AM
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts a $3,391 price tag on each employee who smokes: $1,760 in lost productivity and $1,623 in excess medical expenditures.
Harold J May 14, 2012 at 01:15 AM
A simple nicotine test - just like employers do background checks and drug testing.

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