Recently, I was driving past a top notch tertiary medical center that has a smoke free campus. Across the street from the hospital in the median of a major thoroughfare sat a half dozen employees in their scrubs taking a smoke break. From the car, I could see both the smokers and the smoke-free campus banner. The contradictory image was quite startling.
Now, SSM Health Care hospitals in St. Louis will start a tobacco-free hiring policy next month. Job applicants at the seven SSM hospitals will be asked whether they have used tobacco in the last six months. If the answer is yes, that applicant will be eliminated from the hiring process. SSM spokesperson, Chris Hutton stressed that the health system wants employees to model healthy behaviors and take better care of themselves. Lowering healthcare costs related to employees that smoke is also a factor – the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention puts that cost at an additonal $3,400 annually per employee.
SSM is not the first health system to ban the hiring of smokers – and I hope they won’t be the last.