Two Pennsylvania hospitals have banned smokers from being hired effective as of Monday morning — firing up a renewed debate about how far employers should be allowed to go to regulate behavior that takes place on a worker’s own time.
As The Inquisitr previously reported, the two Philadelphia-area hospitals that have just closed their doors to smokers are The University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. Penn will take the applicant’s word for it, but Children’s will test for nicotine.
The new policy bans smokers from being considered for a large number of hospital jobs. A Reuters report said Penn alone employs over 28,000 workers — although it can’t implement the policy in its New Jersey offices and clinics because of an anti-discrimination law in that state.
Although the ban is now in place, the policy will continue to be debated. Pennsylvania’s Clean Indoor Air Act of 2008 already forbids employees from smoking in public places, so it isn’t a question of hospital workers getting fired up around patients to begin with.
However, there is new research that third-hand smoke — the smoke that is trapped on inanimate objects like a person’s furniture, car, or clothes — can also cause harm to others.
The Penn policy in particular may simply encourage some prospective employees to lie.
However, dozens of hospitals across the country have already quietly implemented the ban, and it isn’t clear that they’ve had much problem so far.
Two hospitals in Ohio were trailblazers for the controversial bans. Cleveland Clinic instituted their ban on smoking anywhere on the job, even in outside designed smoking areas several years ago. At that time, one-quarter of their workers smoked.
By September 2007, they expanded the ban on smoking outdoors to a ban on smoking at all. There were some fears that the Cleveland Clinic, which employs 42,000 workers, would have trouble finding qualified applicants. However, Dr. Paul Terpeluk told Reuters that the fears never became reality: “It never really reduced our pool” of qualified workers.
The District of Columbia and 29 states have already passed laws forbidding discrimination against qualified workers on the basis of whether or not they smoke.
But smokers in the remaining states will likely be keeping a concerned eye on how the new policy plays out in Pennsylvania hospitals.
[photo by Minerva Studio via Shutterstock]