MATTOON Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Centers recent decision to no longer hire people who use nicotine will help protect patients and help it send the message it wants to send, hospital officials say.

SBLHC recently announced that people who use tobacco products cant get jobs at the hospital starting July 1. Current employees will exempt.

While it appears that no other area health care organization has such a ban, there are others in the country and in Illinois that have made similar decisions, according to Eric Benson, SBLHC vice president for human resources.

Many health care organizations have moved in this direction, Benson said. We want to be the role model for health in our community.

SBLHC started a no-smoking policy for anywhere on its grounds in 2008. However, one of the hospitals physicians said third-hand smoke can cause health problems just as being around someone whos actually smoking.

Bernie Ranchero, SBLHC director of employee wellness, said carcinogens from tobacco smoke can embed themselves on smokers clothing, hair and elsewhere. Exposure to that can cause health problems, especially for infants and people with allergies or respiratory problems, he explained.

It goes back to can you smell a smoker? Ranchero said. It can be just as dangerous.

Neither Carle Foundation Hospital, based in Urbana and which has a Mattoon clinic, nor St. Anthonys Memorial Hospital in Effingham has a ban on hiring nicotine users for its hospitals or other facilities, according to their representatives. But as with SBLHC, they both ban smoking at their facilities and have incentives in place to encourage workers to quit using tobacco products, they said.

Carle officials encourage staff to make healthy lifestyle choices, spokeswoman Kelli Anderson said. Employees who use nicotine have to pay higher premiums for their health insurance and Carle has programs and medications to help stop using nicotine available at no cost to workers, she said.

St. Anthonys also has programs to help employees quit tobacco use and insurance pays for quit-smoking classes and covers prescription medicines, spokeswoman Terriann Tharp said.

Benson said hospitals in Peoria and in Chatham, as well as some in other parts of the country, have policies against hiring people who use nicotine.

SBLHC also has programs to help end tobacco use. Also, Benson said one of its nurses recently attended a program at the Mayo Clinic to learn about a multi-step program to help people stop smoking. He said the program has already been successful, as more than 20 current employees have used the program to quit tobacco use.

Benson also said SBLHC obtained legal advice to make sure the no-nicotine policy was not discriminatory. He said the hospitals attorney indicated that the policy is allowed for a health care organization because of its mission to protect the health of the community.

He added that the hospitals board approved the policy and theres been a very positive response from employees.

It was a thoughtful process and we hope we can encourage people to not use tobacco, he said.

Contact Fopay at dfopay@jg-tc.com or 217-238-6858.

(10) comments

gordons67
gordons67

If thats not Discrimination i dont know what is...Hope they have lots of law suites and puts them out of business like they should be... Next you will wave to weight a certain weight too

houseofcards
houseofcards

I wouldn't be surprised if it has a lot to do with insurance claims costing the hospital money. That and all the needed smoke breaks? While I dislike the government imposing smoking laws in the effort to control what they find to be acceptable good and bad behavior, I do think a private business decision is different.

Hary P
Hary P

Employers have every right to set their own standards for hiring, as long as they don't violate any laws on discrimination. Given the health care costs associated with long term smoking, this was a smart move on their part. It isn't even remotely connected to discrimination and no lawyer would take on a case when no law had been broken, so your law suit point is moot.

mickeygarlock
mickeygarlock

Yeah, that's what we need, no Hospital at all in Coles County.

compassion
compassion

what future employees do on their own time is their business as long as they are not breaking a law and should not affect if they are hired. Why is it OK for a future employee to drink themselves in a coma but not OK for them to smoke. Drinking causes more risks than smoking.

EIETMO1
EIETMO1

Not so sure there wouldn't be a legal basis to sue...Recently read an article about lawsuits fied against companies for doing background checks so this would be just another coin in a lawyers pocket.

Egbert Alfonse
Egbert Alfonse

Discrimination? Perhaps. Wiktionary.org defines it "noting or perceiving differences between things" SBLHC has concluded using nicotine by staff has a negative effect on the well being of patients and taken action to reduce that risk. They should have said if you smoke you are gone but chose to restrict it to new hires. Perhaps in 10-20 years we will look back and ask why they exempted anyone?

Alan Poe
Alan Poe

Third-hand smoke? Seriously? Third-hand? So, they are discriminating against people who may live with a smoker? What's next, testing for high-fructose corn syrup use? High blood pressure? Excessive trans-fats? SBLHC may pass this off as 'promoting good health," but what they really want to do is lower their OWN employee health care premiums, while at the same time being able to promote their own brand of prejudice. A two-for-one, as far as they're concerned. Their lawyers will be proven wrong.

chetthejet
chetthejet

Be careful what you wish for or support. Whether or not this ban on citizens seeking employment is prejudicial, consider it's not a long step to banning, for example, dads and moms from visiting their hospitalized child, if indeed, those parents use nicotine. It does seem odd, however, to claim the safety of the patients is at issue when it becomes OK to allow current "nico-employees" to remain, thus placing the patients in the same "nicotine danger zone." Needs more debate, if, that's allowed.

houseofcards
houseofcards

The law clarifies what is allowed and not allowed. Smokers do have rights in certain circumstances, but a not-for-profit organization like SBLHC can impose such a rule. At the bottom of this page from the American Ling Association, there is a paragraph on Smoking Protection Laws in Illinois:

http://www.lungusa2.org/slati/statedetail.php?stateId=17

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