Penn Health System to stop hiring smokers

Posted: February 21, 2013

The University of Pennsylvania Health System will no longer hire smokers and other tobacco users, starting in July.

The system, which includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the policy would improve the health of its workforce and reduce the cost of health-care benefits.

A job applicant must be tobacco-free for six months. New employees, including doctors, who are caught lying about their tobacco use may be fired.

Current employees are not subject to the prohibition, but they already pay a higher premium on their health-care benefits if they are tobacco users and are not participating in free antitobacco programs offered by the system.

In 2012, about 11 percent of employees who were part of the system's health-insurance program declared themselves as tobacco users. Their surcharge is $15 every two weeks.

The details are outlined on the system's website at www.pennmedicine.org/careers/working-at-penn-medicine/tobacco-free.html.

Citing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the system said smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to 443,000 premature deaths a year and cost $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity.

"Employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year for health care. In addition, smoke breaks during work may be disruptive and subject patients/colleagues to the unpleasant smell of smoke on employees' scrubs and clothing," the system said on its website.

Penn's system, which has 17,500 employees, said it was following the lead of the Cleveland Clinic, which introduced a tobacco-free hiring policy in 2007. Other health institutions have followed.

The policy, made public Jan. 1, will not affect new hires working in New Jersey because state law prohibits such restrictions.

Because of recruitment and notification issues, new fellows and residents will not be subject to the policy until July 2014.


Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.

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