A ban on hiring smokers?

Smokers now have another really good reason to quit.

Job opportunities are going up in smoke for applicants who use tobacco products – particularly in states where smokers aren’t part of a protected class.

A small yet growing number of employers are screening for nicotine use as well as drugs before new hires can start working, according to the 2013 Employer Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care by consultancyTowers Watson & Co. and the National Business Group on Health.

Under federal law, smoking is considered an activity, rather than a medical condition, so it’s not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 2010, nearly 20 percent of American adults smoked, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HR pros say the move to nicotine screening is aimed less at cutting health care costs and more at maintaining employee productivity. Indeed, cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion annually — about half in lost productivity and half in health care expenditures, according to the CDC.

The Towers Watson and National Business Group on Health survey found 2 percent of organizations plan to implement a screening policy next year, driven by a desire to keep health care costs down.

According to a report by the American Lung Association, employees who smoke cost employers an average of $1,429 more in health care costs than nonsmokers.

About the Author

Will Temby

Will has enjoyed a 20-year career in leadership positions in the hospitality and travel industry throughout the U.S. with the Hyatt, Sheraton, Hilton, Renaissance and Steamboat Ski and Resort corporations. Will received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. From 2000-2007, he served as President and CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce. He also served as Vice President-Special Projects for the University of Colorado Foundation from 2007 to 2009. Will is a past Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Homeland Defense Foundation and former member of the United States Chamber of Commerce Committee of 100. He is married to Nan, has five wonderful children, and enjoys coaching, traveling, hiking, golfing and skiing.

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