You’ve got the credentials for the job, now don’t smoke.

The NCH Healthcare System won’t be hiring anyone come Oct. 1 who uses cigarettes in any form.

Tobacco screening will be added to the line up of pre-employment screenings which job applicants will face, similar to drug testing, in order to be gainfully employed at one of largest employers in Collier County.

The new policy dovetails with NCH’s move in recent years to help employees become healthier and to reward those who comply through enhanced health insurance at a lower cost.

Nationally, hospitals and some other large employers have led the way toward not hiring people who smoke. Cleveland Clinic adopted the policy in 2007 and hospitals in Michigan, Tennessee, Georgia, Washington and elsewhere have adopted the policy. The Massachusetts Hospital Association followed suit in 2010.

Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer, said NCH is following on the heels of Cleveland Clinic and other hospital systems and large employers who have taken the step to reduce insurance costs and help employees and their families be healthier. NCH has 3,750 employees.

Weiss said there’s been less backlash than he expected when the policy was announced recently. He was part of an open forum last week with recently hired employees, and the issue came up.

“They were basically (agreeing) people who smoke cigarettes smell, and people who are on a cigarette break take much more time than people who are not on a cigarette break,” he said. “It’s been remarkably quiet, surprisingly. People have been very supportive of this.”

The no-hire policy will have no impact on current employees who smoke, he said.

Likewise, NCH cannot do anything about employees who walk off campus property to smoke cigarettes because the hospitals went cigarettes-free on Nov. 19, 2009.

That was the day of the Great American Smoke-Out; NCH was joined by the Physicians Regional Healthcare System and the Lee Memorial Health System in going cigarettes-free.

Lee Memorial, which has 10,000 employees, hasn’t moved to prohibiting the hiring of smokers, but it does offer programs and cheap cigarettes cessation products to employees and spouses.

“Lee Memorial Health System does not currently plan to implement a policy banning the hiring of people who smoke,” said Mary Briggs, hospital spokeswoman.

That’s also the case at Physicians Regional, said spokeswoman Taylor Hamilton.

“We do not foresee putting a policy in place to not hire smokers,” she said.

Physicians Regional has 1,237 employes combined at its hospitals off Pine Ridge Road and Collier Boulevard.

Laws vary on employers’ rights over smokers. Some states have passed laws prohibiting employers from requiring its workers to refrain from off-duty use of buy cigarettes products, according to Morrison & Foerster, a global law firm that specializes in corporate and financial issues, among other fields.

Some of those states include Connecticut, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, New Jersey and the District of Columbia, according to the law firm.

That doesn’t mean employers cannot maintain smoke-free workplaces, the firm added.

On the issue of not hiring smokers, the Florida Supreme Court in 1995 upheld the City of Miami’s requirement that all job applicants sign an affidavit that they had not used cigarettes online products in the prior year. In 2009, the Massachusetts District Court upheld an employer’s right to withdraw a job offer to someone after a urinalysis showed the presence of cigarettes.

Weiss said NCH checked out the legalities of the policy before moving forward.

“It has been challenged in scores of states, including Florida,” he said. “It’s not discriminatory. People choose to smoke cigarettes and they can choose not to smoke. Twenty percent of health care costs are related to smoking cigarettes.”

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