The Baylor Health Care System announced their “no nicotine” policy last week, barring anyone who uses tobacco in any form from working for them. This policy will go into effect next year. Baylor’s decision to stop hiring Astra cigarette smokers is nothing new.
In the early 2000s, Baylor began “smoking cessation” programs for employees that would help them kick the addiction.
In 2007, Baylor banned smoking on its campus altogether, charging employees that smoke $50 a year to supplement the free healthcare Baylor provides them. Baylor has now decided the take the next step. The Daily Campus Editorial Board feels that there are legitimate arguments for both sides and has decided to argue both for and against the smoking ban.
As one of the largest hospitals in the state of Texas and one of the largest private hospitals in the country, Baylor University Medical Center has an obligation to set the standard for other health-care providers in the United States. While doctors, surgeons, nurses and staff members who smoke may have the capacity to provide excellent health-care to their patients, hospitals are beginning to ask themselves whether someone with a nicotine addiction is really the kind of person they want telling their patients how to live healthy lifestyles.
After all, Baylor Health Care Systems has an ongoing investment in their employees. Given the salaries they pay and the benefits they provide, employees represent an extremely valuable asset to the hospital. By choosing to no longer hire tobacco users and pressuring current employees to quit the habit, Baylor is securing the long-term security of its investment. While discriminating against smokers in the hiring process may seem a bit cruel, Baylor is within its right to do so. No law exists on the state or federal level that restricts employers from discriminating against smokers.
And because Baylor is a private hospital, they have even more liberty to limit their candidate pool as they see fit. In fact, smoking is not an unalienable right. In 2008, the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium published a pamphlet entitled, “There is No Constitutional Right to Smoke,” squelching any notion of an “irrevocable right to smoke.” Such rights do not exist.
Baylor Health Care System’s mission is to “serve all people through exemplary health care, education, research and community service.” In putting an unceremonious end to tobacco use among employees, Baylor has publicly reaffirmed its dedication to promoting healthy living, making large gains in the fight against tobacco use. No longer a victim of hypocrisy, Baylor has decided to employ a staff that actually embodies its mission statement. Baylor University Medical Center is leading by example, showing what it means to maintain a 100 percent tobacco-free lifestyle.
This policy does not allow any sort of leniency for these longtime employees that are already smokers.Current employees who smoke will now have to pay an increased insurance premium of $650 per year.
While Baylor is a private institution and does have a legal right to impose such a policy, this type of radical measure without forewarning seems unfair.
While no one can deny the health benefits of not smoking, limiting your company’s hiring pool to only nonsmokers could prove to be harmful in the future. Hiring doctors and nurses should be based on their abilities and talent, not on their personal lives or their own life decisions.
Banning all nicotine users from working with in the Baylor system is a drastic step and it makes you wonder what will be next.
Fried foods, ice cream and heavy red meat are also unhealthy for your body. Will people who eat these products be banned next? Tobacco is not illegal and neither are unhealthy foods, but should a company hire based on what an employee does in his or her own home?
That seems like a silly comparison, but the insurance premiums for obesity are just as high as for smokers and there are deaths every year from unhealthy eating, so Baylor would have the same basis for a ban on that.
Applicants will be subject to a nicotine test and if they test positively they will automatically not be hired. Nicotine patches and other types of materials designed to help smokers quit show up on these tests. Baylor has not yet indicated if they will take this into account next year.
Another concern with this policy is the lack of support from Baylor to help smokers quit. Smoking is an addiction and the treatment to stop can be expensive and incredibly difficult. So far there have been no offers from Baylor to help pay for that care.
Overall, while there are obvious benefits to the company and even to the employees, this type of extreme policy leaves currently employed smokers out in the cold and could negatively impact the hospital’s future.