Geisinger stops hiring tobacco users

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 16, 2012

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Another large, integrated health system has joined the ranks of medical facilities that no longer offer jobs to those who smoke cigarettes or cigars or use smokeless tobacco products.

As of Feb. 1, Geisinger Health System, based in Danville, Pa., will hire only those who test negative for nicotine during the routine drug testing that is part of the pre-employment physical. The testing is carried out after an offer has been made but before the person starts the job.

"Geisinger is joining dozens of hospitals and medical organizations across the country that are encouraging healthier living, decreasing absenteeism and reducing health care costs by adopting strict policies that make smoking a reason to turn away job applicants," said Richard Merkle, the organization's chief human resources officer.

This policy change affects new hires for part-time and full-time positions, but not current employees. Such testing detects tobacco users, but not those who are exposed only to secondhand smoke. Those who test positive will be given a list of smoking cessation resources and allowed to reapply after six months.

State laws governing discrimination against those who use nicotine vary widely. Refusing to hire users of tobacco products is legal in Pennsylvania.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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