Arizona may no longer hire smokers as the county will take into consideration later this month if they will put a price on smokers who work and if they will no longer hire smokers.
The vote by the Pima County Board is scheduled on December 16 for a new policy that would refuse the hiring of smokers. The new proposal will also inflict a 30 percent surcharge on the health insurances of employees that are currently smoking or consuming various other tobacco products.
The county’s health officials claim the new policy would bring over $1 billion annually in savings from costs of health-care. Chuck Huckelberry, the Pima County Administrator said there will probably be substantial savings if workers that smoke and use tobacco products will be slowly replaced with workers that are healthier.
“Our taxpayers pay for our health insurance because we are self-insured. Anything we can do to reduce the cost is beneficial.”
The health department in the county approximates that 32 percent of its over 2,300 workers are smokers or users of tobacco products. A memo from the department claimed that smokers cost the county $13.4 million every year.
The new policy will require potential workers to bring in a note from a doctor or undergo a drug test in order to prove they have been nicotine or tobacco free for a year. People who don’t smoke and who will be able to prove they are nicotine free will be qualified for a $5 discount in health care for their premium of health care each paycheck. The policy will also apply to e-cigarettes but not to nicotine patches or gum, Chuck Huckelberry said.
Some people say, however, that prohibiting employees from smoking in their personal time is going too far. A Boston University public health professor advocating for workplaces to be smoke-free, Dr. Michael Siegel said the new policy employs a form of discrimination.
“Discrimination is essentially making employment decisions based on a group to which someone belongs rather than their qualifications for the job.”
Michael Siegel said.
Human resources director for Pima County and an ex-smoker, Allyn Bulzoni said the new policy which means Arizona may no longer hire smokers is about recommending people to be healthy, not about penalizing people who smoke.