Covenant and UMC implementing “nicotine free” policies

Reported by: Henry Ramos
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Updated: 8/18/2012 3:00 pm

Those looking for employment in the health care field will soon see "nicotine free hiring" on job applications.  

UMC Spokesman Eric Finley said, "Quite honestly we want people to stop using nicotine," he said. We want people to quit."

You've seen commercials, posters, and pamphlets urging nicotine users to call it quits. However, UMC and Covenant hospitals are taking a more proactive approach.

"Starting January 1st UMC will no longer hire employees who use nicotine," Finley said. We will be screening for that prior their hiring.

Covenant Spokeswoman Whitney Bryant said, "A Covenant employee, part of the medical plan and they are a nicotine user as of January 1st they are going to have a $25 surcharge per pay period."

A UMC employee will have the option to enroll in a program to help them quit. The hospital will even pick up the tab. Employees clean of nicotine will be rewarded with discounts on their insurance.

"Then moving into May 2013, we will be entirely smoke-free on our campus," Finley said. Patients will still be able to smoke in certain areas as they are now."

Covenant, for now is going to make its current nicotine users to cough up a little bit of every paycheck, that is unless they enroll in a support program.

"We will cover 100 percent of the costs of patches, gum, lozenges things like that," Bryant said.

"It is also expensive for companies that are self-insured like UMC is, it offers insurance to its employees and nicotine users drive up those costs," Finley said.

At Covenant, they believe nicotine users cost the hospital more than $2 million dollars in medical costs and lost productivity.

Baylor Health care system is another Texas hospital which has a tobacco-free hiring policy.

It is legal, the U.S. Employment Equal Opportunity Commission allows nicotine-free hiring because smokers are not a protected class under federal law.

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