Penn Health System Stops Employing Smokers

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The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the policy would improve the health of its workforce and reduce the cost of health-care benefits...

 

The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the policy would improve the health of its workforce and reduce the cost of health-care benefits. From July onwards, job applicants must be tobacco-free for six months. New employees, including doctors, who are found to be lying about their tobacco use, could be fired under the new regulation.

Current employees are not subject to the non-smoking rules, but they must pay a higher premium on their health-care benefits if they are tobacco users. The system does however make concessions for employers partaking in the free anti-tobacco programs it offers.

In 2012, about 11 percent of employees who were part of the system's health-insurance program declared themselves as tobacco users. Their surcharge is $15 every two weeks. The details are outlined on the system's website.

The hospital and university cites that smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to 443,000 premature deaths a year and cost $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity.

“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,” the system said on its website.

Penn's system, which has 17,500 employees, said it was following the lead of the Cleveland Clinic, which introduced a tobacco-free hiring policy in 2007. Other health institutions have followed.

The policy, made public January 1, 2013, will not affect new hires working in New Jersey because state law prohibits such restrictions. Because of recruitment and notification issues, new employees and residents will not be subject to the policy until July 2014.

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