Main Line Health to Stop Hiring Smokers

By David Chang
|  Tuesday, Feb 25, 2014  |  Updated 1:00 AM EDT
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A major hiring change by one of the biggest employers in Suburban Philadelphia. Mainline Health annouces it will no longer hire smokers or other nicotine users, starting in May. NBC10's George Spencer reports.

NBC10- George Spencer

A major hiring change by one of the biggest employers in Suburban Philadelphia. Mainline Health annouces it will no longer hire smokers or other nicotine users, starting in May. NBC10's George Spencer reports.

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A local health system that employs thousands in our area is sending a major new message to potential applicants. Smokers need not apply.

Main Line Health officials announced on Monday they would no longer hire tobacco and nicotine users after May 1 of this year. Current employees who smoke or use tobacco will also have to pay a $20 surcharge for their health care benefits starting in 2015.

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“As a health system, it is our responsibility to set an example of wellness and disease prevention for our patients, employees and the community,” said Paul Yakulis, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Main Line Health. “And, as good stewards of our financial resources, we also know that placing this focus on smoking – a behavior related to significantly increased medical costs – can improve both our employees’ health and Main Line Health’s financial well-being.”

Under the “Tobacco Use Impact on Employment” policy, applicants will have to certify that they haven’t used tobacco products or nicotine in any form in the 90-day period prior to submitting an application to Main Line Health. They will also have to certify that they will remain tobacco-free during their employment with the health system.

Employees found in violation of the policy will have to complete a smoking cessation program and undergo random nicotine lab screenings for two years.

The new policy led to a mixed reaction from smokers and non-smokers alike.

"It bothers me," said Jim Hionis, manager of the Tinder Box, a smoke shop in Havertown. "It does have an authoritarian tenor to it."

While Hionis admits that the policy is well within the rights of a private company, he also says it may end up scaring off good candidates.

Hionis also says the policy opens the doors to other private health topics, such as obesity or alcohol use.

"It could be a slippery slope," he said. "Right now smoking is a soft target. It's an easy target."

Main Line Health has had a smoke-free policy within all of its buildings for the past 25 years. In 2009, the policy expanded to include the grounds of each campus.

With its new program, the company is also offering free smoking cessation classes. Employees who complete the class will receive a $100 incentive payment.

Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system that was founded in 1985. The system includes the Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital

The University of Pennsylvania Health System adopted a similar policy last year, and stopped hiring tobacco users in July.

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