Company mandates nicotine testing for employees

TEMP ORARY February 23, 2012 3

I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy smoking a pipe or a cigar on rare occasions. I think it surprises many people when I confess to enjoying a high-quality stogie after my cross country or track season ends. The majority of runners typically don’t indulge in smoking, and I wouldn’t recommend it more than a few times a year if you want to be successful or breathe during workouts. Smokers usually fall into one of two categories: 1. The heavy smoker who invests a large portion of their income into smoking or 2. The smoker who on rare occasions enjoys a tobacco product. I would consider myself part of the second group.

If you find yourself in the first group, you may want to rethink your smoking habits as they could limit you from being hired by certain companies after graduation. Geisinger Medical Center, which is ranked among the top 100 hospitals in the country according to the American Nurses Credentialing Center, banned smoking on all of its properties in 2007 in an attempt to promote health awareness throughout all of its campuses. They also have refused to hire any potential employees if they test positive for nicotine.

You may cry “foul” when hearing of Geisinger Medical Center’s attempt to limit the rights of employees to enjoy a tobacco product occasionally, but I applaud them for their efforts to promote health among their current and potential employees. I have no sympathy for someone not getting a job because of an unhealthy habit such as smoking. If you’re allowing yourself to become dependent on your daily smoke breaks to relieve your stress, not getting a job is the least of your worries as you’ll probably die from lung cancer eventually. I apologize if that sounds harsh, but many of my friends in high school had relatives or acquaintances who died from lung cancer. Having seen the pain they went through, I would never want anyone to have to experience that type of death or lose a relative to it.

Speaking as someone who doesn’t rely too heavily on smoking to solve my problems or relieve my stress every day, I confess to being angered by habitual smokers in the workplace. In both of the jobs I held prior to beginning college, smokers frequently took their “smoke breaks” while I was obligated to cover their position until they finished their cigarette. Besides the amount of time these employees wasted, it gave the business the negative image of supporting unhealthy habits.

Companies aren’t legally or morally obligated to cater to the various addictions their employees have. I would even argue that any company that allows their employees to take frequent smoking breaks during shifts doesn’t care about their employees’ health or the image that it gives the company. Although businesses are most often motivated by money, a healthy public image of their workers is closely tied to this. If a business is openly promoting a healthy lifestyle among its employees, this will be viewed positively and cause the way consumers view the company to change for the better.

There’s a quote in Spiderman (hopefully the upcoming remake is stellar) that Uncle Ben says to Peter Parker. He says, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I’m quite aware that quote has been referenced by many people, but there’s some solid truth to be found in it. Geisinger Medical Center is in a position of great power; it has many high-quality jobs to offer people in a time when the economy is currently pulling out of a recession. The Medical Center has stated that it will offer potential employees the chance to re-apply for the job if they are proven to be nicotine-free for five months. If it utilizes this power responsibly, it could be the factor that causes people to quit smoking and get a great paying job. It’s a win-win for potential employees willing to quit their addiction. They’re healthy, and they get a job.

Although their actions may not be received positively, Geisinger Medical Center is steadfastly holding to their principles of promoting a healthy lifestyle both inside and outside the workplace. Not only would I be proud to call them my employers, but I would wholeheartedly support their decision to not hire employees who blatantly go against everything they stand for. Just when you think every company out in the working world is only concerned with making money, Geisinger Medical Center stands out as an organization dedicated to promoting health among its employees and society as whole.


  1. shellsl February 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm - Reply

    As an “evil” smoker, I completely disagree with your “opinion”, but respect your right to have it. I show the same respect to others around me when contemplating lighting up a cigarette, not because I’m forced to, but because I truly believe in the constitution & that all of us have the right to pursue happiness, while respecting the rights of others.
    Complaining about covering 5 minutes for a co-worker after forcing them out of the building for a “smoke break” reveals the fact that you’re not happy unless you have a cause to whine about. If you feel so slighted, I bet your co-workers would be happy to cover for you to take a “health break”, even without a petition. Don’t worry though; I’m sure management scares easily enough to make it mandated if you feel like you can’t depend on the goodwill of your co-workers.
    The main problem with your opinion and society in general, is a “nanny state” mentality. Our personal freedoms are being violated by the biggest blowhards, spouting off health concerns. These same blowhards can be found regularly wolfing down a “heart-attack” special, accompanied by a couple of cocktails, and crawling behind the wheel to play Russian roulette with pedestrians & other drivers. I have a real problem swallowing the philosophy that I can’t smoke in a bar because I may or may not give someone lung cancer after repeated exposure – even though they have the right & choice to decide whether to work or visit a “smoking” environment. But at that same bar, a non-smoking drinker will ultimately kill an unsuspecting victim once every 50 minutes.
    As of the date you posted this article, smoking cigarettes or cigars are still a legal activity. Something to contemplate is  – drinking, eating & sex are all legal activities also, so now that Geisinger is setting precedent with an absurd nicotine mandate, what’s to stop them from firing employees that have liver failure, are obese or have STD’s?  Obesity & type 2 diabetes are at an all time high – You can be sure the unemployment line will not change that reality.
    Let’s all remember the “If you give a mouse a cookie” story because this is the road you’re traveling down, one day in the very near future, consider that you WILL be the one targeted for something deemed as an “evil” habit.
    If you still need a dose of reality, ask yourself one last question – Do we really want businesses & the government taking “corporate responsibility” and deciding what is or is not good for us? They’ve done such a swell job so far….

  2. wonjon6791 February 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm - Reply

    I think you may have missed the point of the article. It doesn’t mention government regulation once……it’s talking about whether businesses have the right to hire/fire employees based on things like whether they smoke or not… the way they do have that right. Businesses can hire or fire people on any criteria as long as it doesn’t infringe on your race, national origin, sex, religion, disability, or age. That’s basically it…so to answer your comment about businesses firing people if they’re obese……yes they can. Welcome to real life.
    As far as the smoking breaks go…I can totally relate to the author of the article. Smoking breaks never last 5 minutes. By the way there’s no such thing as a “health break.” The work places I’ve been employed at would always scold workers if they were standing around or taking a 5 minute break other than their 35 minute lunch break, grabbing a drink of water, or going to the bathroom. These things are for all employees though and not specifically geared towards non-smokers…so as of right now there is no “health break.”
    All in all, alot of the stuff you mentioned was never talked about in the article…..the author made no mention of bars or businesses regulating what CUSTOMERS do in their work place, or what the government should regulate; it was about whether Businesses can hire/fire people based on whether they smoke or not. Re-read the article for a more accurate comprehension of it.

  3. shellsl February 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm - Reply

    Wonjon6791, really?
     I’m wondering what planet you live on or how old you might be?  Fortunately I am well versed in more than one comprehension skill, so associating collateral information & inferences contributed to a well informed conclusion.  In addition to a college degree, successful business & real life experience, I have raised two boys (19 & 22 – probably about your age). You, on the other hand, clearly display a lack of insight to understand the consequences of Geisinger’s “MANDATE”.
    I will address your comments, keeping it simple so you can follow along.
    “Businesses can hire or fire people on any criteria” (EEOC); real world – Employees sue for wrongful termination genius, even when not covered by EEOC. Ask any lawyer what will happen if a company fired you for being obese, contracting an STD or drinking AFTER work. {FYI – disability specifically protects an alcoholic’s addiction}.
    “Work places you’ve been employed scolding you”; real world – generally adults don’t get scolded, they get fired. If you do your job well & make the company money this isn’t an issue.
    “All in all stuff I mentioned was never talked about in the article”; real world – precisely! Even though that “stuff” is important to the conversation. My first paragraph defends that point.
    Wonjon6791, when you’re old enough, change over from E! News to CNN or Fox News and follow along, come back – we’ll talk again. Until then, learn to suppress the snarky amateurish attitude & read “if you give a mouse a cookie”, you might learn something.

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