On December 16, the Pima County Board will vote on a policy which will debar any smoker from being hired. The Pima County Board of Supervisors will be voting also to impose a 30% health insurance surcharge on such workers who smoke or use tobacco products. The smokers will be forced to quit if they want to work for Pima County in Arizona. The county is asking its citizens to remain healthy and consider a hiring ban on smokers.
Enforcing such a ban will lead to an annual saving of $1 million by the way of health care costs. According to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry , the savings will be considerable if the work force is replaced b y non smokers.
Huckelberry said in an interview, “Our taxpayers pay for our health insurance because we are self-insured. Anything we can do to reduce the cost is beneficial.”
Pima County health department estimates that about 32% of its workforce of 2,300 workers is addicted to tobacco or its products. It is estimated that tobacco users cost the county $13.4 million annually.
If the new policy comes into effect, workers will have to furnish a Doctor’s note or a drug test to prove that they have abstained from having tobacco or nicotine for year.Non smokers will be offered a $5 health-care discount every pay period. On the other hand tobacco users will be asked to pay 30 percent more for their health care premium each paycheck. The policy will also include electronic cigarettes but will not be applicable on nicotine gum or patches.
There has been dissenting voices also with people calling such ban as discriminatory.
Dr. Michael Siegel, a Boston University public health professor who advocates for smoke-free workplaces, said “Discrimination is essentially making employment decisions based on a group to which someone belongs rather than their qualifications for the job.”