Health and Science

Smoke's out! Colorado hospital doesn't want puffers for jobs

OrthoColorado Hospital in LIttleton, CO., part of Centura Health.
Source: OrthoColorado Hospital

They'll treat people who use tobacco, but they won't hire them.

A major Colorado health system has said that starting Jan. 1 it will not hire anyone who smokes or uses any tobacco product, including nicotine patches and gum.

Centura Health will enforce the ban by testing job applicants for tobacco use, The Denver Post reported Friday.

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"We wholeheartedly believe this is the right thing to do for our organization," Centura spokeswoman Wendi Dammann told the newspaper. "As the region's leading health-care system committed to improving the health of those we serve, it is important that we first serve as a role model for our communities by promoting the benefits of health and wellness."

The ban on tobacco use by new hires will not affect Centura Health's current workforce of 17,100 people, the Post noted.

Happy holidays: Booze yes, smokes no
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Centura Health is just the latest hospital to ban smokers and other tobacco users from being hired. The Cleveland Clinic started refusing to hire such people in 2007, and since then others have followed suit, including the WellSpan Health system in Pennsylvania, which is also putting its ban into effect Jan. 1.

“Our goal is to promote tobacco-free living and to create a healthier and more pleasant environment for those who visit or receive care at a WellSpan facility,” said Robert Batory, WellSpan Health's chief human resources officer, when the system announced its ban in August.

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Colorado is one of nearly 30 states that have laws protecting current employees who smoke from job discrimination, but its law does not prevent employers from discriminating against new hires for tobacco use.

The Post story noted that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that smokers nationally cost their employers more than $190 billion in extra health-care costs and lost productivity, and that 443,000 people die prematurely each year from tobacco use.

Read The Denver Post story here.