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October 10, 2012

Beaumont, Henry Ford adopt no-nicotine hiring policies

Effective Jan. 1, medical giants will not hire smokers

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — If the saying “practice what you preach” has any merit, Beaumont and Henry Ford health systems are behind it.

Both medical organizations announced in a joint statement Sept. 28 that potential employees would be screened for nicotine starting Jan. 1, 2013, as part of a new no-nicotine hiring policy.

Beaumont has had a no-smoking-on-campus policy since 2007, and also a no-fragrance policy, but employees still came from home or returned from lunch smelling like smoke.

“We thought, if we were going to encourage our patients to stop smoking, we should have role-model behaviors,” said Jay Holden, vice president of Human Resources for Beaumont. “We aren’t going to allow anyone to smoke on the premises. People have gone out for lunch and came back smelling like smoke.”

The new policy will not prevent current employees from smoking — they just won’t be allowed to smoke on campus, during their shift or break, or smell like it when they’re coming to work from home or lunch. Tobacco products include cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, snuff, chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes. Violating the new policy could result in job termination.

“I’m really hoping we don’t get to that,” Holden said. “We have a really good workforce. I don’t anticipate that to be a major issue. People recognize that patients come here to get well and don’t want to smell smoke.”

Holden said Beaumont offers programs to help employees and their spouses quit smoking. Incentives include improved health premiums if they pass an annual screening.

“We have really robust programs for smoking cessation,” Holden said. “Our main issue here is we really encourage all of our patients to engage in healthy behaviors.”

Although the no-nicotine policy tackles one unhealthy behavior, there are many other unhealthy behaviors that David W. Kuneman, Midwest regional director and director of research for the New Hampshire-based Citizens Freedom Alliance Inc., does not see being addressed.

“Obese people, workers with small children and women of reproductive age also will cost the health insurance programs of these two Detroit medical institutions more,” Kuneman said via email. “Those who also engage in risky sports, such as skiing and motorcycle riding, surfing, etc., also cost insurance more. There really is no ‘pure group’ of workers to choose from that do not ever have medical problems. Thus, it is discriminatory for these institutions to refuse to hire smokers, while continuing to hire other workers who have these other aforementioned risk factors, which drive up insurance costs.”

Kuneman said other companies throughout the nation have taken on similar policies, but most have fallen back into previous form.

“I’m not aware of any employer which stopped hiring smokers, which eventually claimed that doing so actually led to fewer health insurance claims,” Kuneman said via email. “And I am aware of some employers which reversed smoke-free hiring policies, because the pool of qualified potential hires was not large enough without smokers.”

For more information on the three groups, visit www.beaumont.edu, www.henryford.com or www.smokersclub.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.