- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Smokers seeking a job this spring at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital should try their luck elsewhere.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1CwqlZn ) reports employees were notified in a Monday email from the vice president of human resources Andree Trosclair that the Little Rock hospital will stop hiring smokers starting May 1.

The move coincides with the implementation of the hospital’s new Tobacco and Nicotine-Free Campus policy. The hospital joins an increasing number of medical facilities and businesses around the nation implementing more stringent smoking policies.

The new policy prohibits all nicotine use, including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, e-cigarettes, and nicotine patches and gum. Tobacco use is already banned on the hospital’s campus.

Hospital officials say applicants must submit to urine tests for nicotine. Their employment is contingent on passing those tests. If they fail, they will be allowed to reapply for the position after 90 days.

Current staff will be screened for nicotine like other drugs, but officials say positive readings for nicotine won’t affect their employment. According to Jennifer Holland, director of occupational health for the hospital, the number of smokers among about 4,000 employees at the hospital ranges between 8 percent and 12 percent.

Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at Boston University’s School of Public, has studied the trend of companies banning smokers and says that there are usually two reasons companies give for the shift. According to the professor, companies say the move saves money because there are higher healthcare costs associated with employees who smoke, and the company gets to set a good example for the community.

Holland says that the new policy is not related to the hospital’s health insurance plan for employees, but she did say they “continue to see medical plans (costs) go up every year, which suggests that we’re not necessarily getting healthier. Smoking is one of those things we can control.”

Holland said nicotine use can affect an employee’s ability to work, and the hospital does not want to expose patients to “third-hand” nicotine residue.

According to Josh Sanford, managing attorney of Sanford Law Firm in Little Rock, an employment law firm, the hospital’s new policy is allowed under the law. Sanford says that smoking is not a protected activity under the law, so banning smokers from working at the hospital is not illegal.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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