Effective July 1, 2015, Chester County Hospital ceased hiring tobacco users in our efforts to improve the overall health of our workforce while reducing health care benefit costs.
What was the effective date of the Tobacco Free Hiring policy?
Chester County Hospital ceased hiring tobacco users effective July 1, 2015. All applicants with a Start Date on or after July 1, 2015 are required to complete an attestation that they have not used tobacco products for the previous six months.
Does the Tobacco Free Hiring policy apply to Chester County Hospital and all UPHS entities?
Yes, with the exception of clinical practices located in New Jersey. With an exception of New Jersey, most states permit the right of employers to implement such tobacco related policies.
Did the Tobacco Free Hiring policy impact current Chester County Hospital employees?
No. Current employees were be grandfathered - but employees who are tobacco users are encouraged to participate in smoking cessation programs. Such programs are offered by the hospital.
Who does this policy apply to?
This policy applies to all Chester County Hospital employees, inclusive of physicians, employed by the hospital, who begin employment on or after July 1, 2015.
Why the focus on tobacco users?
The health risks and related costs associated with tobacco use have caused Chester County Hospital and UPHS to mobilize action for moving toward a tobacco free future by focusing on the health of its workforce while containing the escalating costs associated with tobacco use. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides evidence that smoking or second-hand smoke exposure contributes to 443,000 premature deaths annually and results in $193 billion in health care costs and lost productivity.
More than 50 years of research has proven that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the US, imposing a huge health and financial burden on families and businesses. Employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year for health care. In addition, smoke breaks during work may be disruptive and subject patients/colleagues to the unpleasant smell of smoke on employees' scrubs and clothing (Source: Institute of Medicine, Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation, National Academy of Sciences, 2007).
Is there documented evidence that 'banning the hiring of tobacco users' reduces overall health care costs?
There is no longitudinal study that provides demonstrable evidence that employers who cease hiring tobacco users reduce overall health care costs. This is largely due to the fact, that this type of employment practice has only been initiated in the past few years. One of the first to introduce the 'tobacco-free hiring' policy was the Cleveland Clinic in 2007, whose practice has contributed to an overall reduction in smoking rates in Cuyahoga County. Many others have followed since then including Geisinger Health Care System, St. Luke's, Baylor Health Care System, Humana, Massachusetts Hospital Association and many others throughout the country.
Inherent in the mission of health care organizations is healing the sick and cultivating healthier communities. So it does make sense that health care organizations would be the first employers to move toward a tobacco free future, ending a habit that leads to disease, disability and premature death.
How are applicants screened for tobacco use?
Applicants for employment on or after July 1, 2015 are asked to attest that they are non-tobacco users on their employment application. Falsification of information on the employment application is grounds for discipline up to and including termination.
Is the screening for tobacco use legal?
Yes. Users of tobacco are not in a legally protected class. Non-tobacco hiring policies are legal in 21 states including Pennsylvania. In 1987 a federal Appeal Court ruled that smokers are not a "protected class" entitled to special legal protections and that courts need no further rationale than the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette cartons: Cigarette smoking is hazardous to your health. This policy does not apply current Chester County Hospital employees.
If an applicant is a tobacco user, can he/she reapply for employment at Chester County Hospital?
Yes. Candidates/applicants may reapply when they can truthfully attest that they have not been a tobacco user for the previous six months.
What if an applicant is hired as a non-tobacco user and then subsequently begins to use tobacco?
Chester County Hospital is concerned about improving the overall health of its workforce. Employees will be strongly encouraged to participate in free smoking cessation counseling including free nicotine replacement therapy.
If an employee falsifies their non-tobacco attestation, what will be the consequences?
Employees who falsify information on the employment application may be subject to discipline up to and including termination. We rely on our employees to be truthful in the information submitted for employment.
If a current employee terminates employment with Chester County Hospital and then re-applies, are they subject to the new policy?
Will physicians be subject to the tobacco-free hiring policy?
All Penn Medicine physicians who are on the Medical Staff at Chester County Hospital are subject to this policy.
Will residents of communities who have higher smoking rates be adversely impacted by this policy?
Even surrounding communities that have a relatively high usage of tobacco products have far more non-tobacco users than tobacco users. As always, our commitment to the health and wellness of our community will continue in our efforts to increase education on the impact of tobacco use. The implementation of this policy does not adversely impact our recruitment efforts.
What future bans will Chester County Hospital consider next?
Chester County Hospital is committed to a safe and healthy work environment and to promoting the health and wellbeing of its employees. Other than requiring future applicants to attest to being a non-tobacco user, there are no specific plans to restrict employment for other conditions.