U.S. News


Ariz. County Might Refuse To Hire Smokers

Pima County will vote this month on whether to stop hiring tobacco users and penalize employees who smoke.
Posted at 3:56 PM, Dec 07, 2014

An Arizona county's board of supervisors will vote this month on whether to refuse to hire smokers and penalize current employees who smoke. 

If passed, the policy would require prospective Pima County employees to provide a doctor's note or drug test proving they have been tobacco-free for a year in order to be hired and would put a 30 percent surcharge on current tobacco-using employees' existing health-care costs. 

The policy would not penalize people who use nicotine replacement products like gum or patches, but would penalize those who use e-cigarettes. 

Non-smoking employees who sign a form saying they are nicotine-free can receive a $5 health-care discount each pay period. 

The county says it would not subject employees to random nicotine tests, instead supervisors would be watching for signs of policy violations and request nicotine tests if they suspect a worker has been using tobacco products. 

Proponents of the policy predict it could save the county more than $1 million a year on health-care costs noting the county is self-insured.

The Pima County Health Department says about a third of its more than 2,300 employees use tobacco and cost the county about $13.4 million a year in health care costs. (Video via CNN)

The county's human resources director Allyn Bulzoomi told The Arizona Daily Star , "It's not an attempt to punish anybody ... It’s an attempt to encourage people to be healthy."

However,  Wall Street OTC reports the policy is also being called discriminatory by some. One public health professor said, “It is a form of employment discrimination. Discrimination is essentially making employment decisions based on a group to which someone belongs rather than their qualifications for the job.”

Currently, twenty-nine state have legislation against denying employment to smokers. Arizona is not one of those states.  

This video includes images fromGetty Imagesand David Guro / CC BY 2.0.