Maryland Hospital Bans Employees From Smoking And Vaping — Even When They’re At Home
July 10, 2014 by Ben Bullard
Being a smoker, vaper, tobacco dipper or user of any other form of nicotine delivery will soon be enough to automatically disqualify applicants who seek any kind of employment at one Maryland hospital.
And it won’t matter whether the would-be employees confine their nicotine indulgence to their private hours away from work, either. If an applicant uses any tobacco or nicotine-delivery products, at any time, he might as well toss his application in the trash.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis has revised its hiring policy to forbid tobacco use among its future employees, “whether as a surgeon or security guard,” as the paper observes.
The new rule takes effect beginning July 2015. Current hospital employees who smoke are grandfathered in and won’t be affected by the new rule.
While the new policy is generating a lot of headlines, it doesn’t follow close on the heels of some recent innovation to existing law. In fact, as the Sun reports, telling your employees they can’t smoke — ever — is already legal in many States. In Anne Arundel’s case, the burden of proof lies not with the hospital, but with the prospective employee, who must pass a urine test that screens for the presence of (legal) nicotine, as well as the usual batch of illegal substances.
Like most nanny policies, promulgators of the ban attribute the heavy-handedness to well-intentioned altruism. They only want what’s best for you:
Hospital representatives, who say their primary mission is “living healthier together,” say the new rules grew out of two years of researching ways to prevent tobacco-related diseases — and hearing out those who questioned the policy’s fairness and legality. The hospital hopes that health care costs will decrease over the long term, but that was not the primary driver, said Julie McGovern, the center’s vice president of human resources.
“We’re doing this to improve the health status of our community,” McGovern said. “It’s a serious obligation we have … and one of the important steps we can take to be a role model.”
Incredibly, the policy extends even to users of tobacco-free, combustion-free vaporizers — products that offer users the option of inhaling nicotine or of going completely nicotine-free, while positing none of the health risks of secondhand smoke.
Anne Arundel is not the first hospital to enact a ban on new employees’ use of tobacco. And as the article observes, such policies aren’t exclusive to employers in the healthcare field: “Other employers with such hiring bans include Scotts Miracle-Gro and Alaska Airlines.”
So far, no employer that has enjoined its workers from using tobacco has faced a significant legal challenge — although critics argue that it’s a discriminatory practice, one that dictates which legal activities employees can pursue in their personal lives.