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New Non-Nicotine Hiring Policy

St. Luke's Takes Smoke-Free Workplace to the Next Level

New Non-Nicotine Hiring Policy Promotes Healthier Workplace/Lifestyle

Bethlehem, PA (3/30/2010)  – Following the lead of avant-garde organizations, including The Cleveland Clinic, St. Luke's Hospital & Health Network announced today that it will institute a non-nicotine hiring policy starting May 1. As the region's second largest employer with over 7,000 employees, St. Luke's will be the first in our area to implement such a policy.

"While some may view this as a bold move," states Bob Zimmel, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at St. Luke's, "our organization feels strongly that promoting a healthier workplace benefits everyone."

Nicotine Screening Part of Pre-Employment Process

Beginning May 1, candidates who apply for a position at St. Luke's will be screened for nicotine as part of the pre-employment process. Those individuals who test positive for nicotine will not be eligible for employment until they re-test negative.

A notification of the test results will be sent to the candidate along with a list of available smoking cessation resources and programs provided by St. Luke's. Candidates may re-test in six months and will be reconsidered for employment.

Current hospital employees will not be affected by the new policy; however, St. Luke's Smoking Cessation program helps employees who are smokers to quit.

Policy Encourages Positive Change

"We recognize that smoking is a highly-addictive habit and really want to encourage people to make a change in their lives for the better," states Zimmel.

From an organizational standpoint, the benefits can be seen in lower medical costs and increased worker productivity. According to the American Cancer Society, smokers have more medical visits and expenses than non-smokers and also spend eight percent of their working hours smoking.

"By discouraging smoking from the start, it is a win-win for St. Luke's and its employees," states Zimmel. "As a health care leader, we need to set the example."

While not widely publicized, non-nicotine hiring policies are legal in 20 states including Pennsylvania. In 1987 a Federal Appeals Court ruled that smokers are not a "protected class" entitled to special legal protections and that courts need no further rational than the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette cartons: Cigarette smoking is hazardous to health.