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Arizona County Considers Not Hiring Cigarette Smokers

“It’s going to start with smoking, then it’s going to go to weight and to other factors down the road just because the cost is so out of control,” said staffing employment expert Michael Hayes when referring to on-the-job health care costs.

Hayes says this is just the beginning for one county in Arizona that is attempting to ban smoking in all facets of the workplace.

Pima County may be putting hundreds of workers out of jobs with its new policy proposal, but on the plus side, their efforts could be saving the local government money.

On December 16th, the Pima County Board of Supervisors delayed a vote that “would reserve the right not to hire smokers…and would institute a hefty 30 percent health insurance surcharge on current employees who use tobacco products.”

Pima County—who approximately spends over $12 million on annual health care insurance—would save at least $1 million yearly.

The 30 percent surcharge would affect at least one-third of the county’s 2,000 employed workers who smoke cigarettes.

By submitting to mandatory screenings, prospective workers would have to provide evidence of a drug test or present a doctor’s note proving that they’ve been smoke-free for at least one year.

This process could be a make-it-or-break-it for chronic nicotine users looking for work.

Full-time employees, on the other hand, could experience some perks to being smoke-free in the workplace as well as outside of work.

The new policy may require nonsmokers to sign a document confirming their abstinence from cigarettes. If they agree to the affidavit, then they’ll become eligible to receive a health care discount rewarded to their biweekly pay period. 

Since a lot of people view this as an unfair and discriminatory practice towards addicted smokers, the County Board of Supervisors has been brainstorming other ways to reduce medical costs if the policy just so happens not to pass.

Some have suggested charging new workers who use tobacco $90 a month as a way to cover additional costs. This would ensure that the company is not fully responsible for those employees who acquire any health issues caused by smoking.

For many job markets not only in Arizona, but also across the United States, this could open up doors to several frightening possibilities for local governments to save money. 

If this new policy passes, it could very well mean that companies now have the right to place hiring restrictions on certain health factors that could be costly for them.

However, supporters of the proposed policy say that its restrictions are not intended to be some sort of punishment or penalty against smokers, but rather a positive approach to a healthier lifestyle.

Others just believe that insurers are looking for an easy way out, especially when it comes to maximizing profits by reducing health care expenses.

The voting session has been rescheduled to February 10 as more information is needed before the county’s board members make a final decision.


Image: iStock


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