Boone Hospital Center will soon screen job applicants for nicotine

Starting Jan. 1, applicants that test positive for nicotine will be denied a job

Local hospital to screen job applicants for nicotine

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Job applications for tobacco users will soon be going up in smoke at Boone Hospital Center.

A new policy for BJC HealthCare hospitals goes into effect Jan. 1. and the hospitals, including Boone Hospital Center, will not hire anyone that does not pass a nicotine test.

"I've talked to some colleagues at other hospitals in the area and they've indicated that they are heading in the same direction, just haven't announced it yet," said Michelle Zvanut, vice president of human resources for Boone Hospital Center.

Potential new employees will take the nicotine test after the interview process. If they do not pass, then they will not get the job.

However, current employees are still safe. Zvanut told ABC 17 News that they are encouraging any employees that do smoke to quit through one of their programs.

Baylor Health Systems in Texas has been using the nicotine test since 2012. In one year, they reduced the amount of staff that smoke in their hospitals by nearly 5 percent.

"We have companies and different corporations contact us because they are no longer interested in hiring nicotine users and want to find out how we implement this," said Becky Hall, vice president of health and wellness at Baylor Health Systems.

Hall told ABC 17 News that she sees this health care trend as just the beginning with other employers wanting to get on board.

But that may challenge current smoker protection laws in the state of Missouri that defend smokers against discrimination in the work place. Under the law though, heath care facilities are exempt.

Several hospitals told ABC 17 News that they are making these changes to practice what they preach. They said they cannot lecture their patients on how to be healthy while they are endangering their own health by smoking.

"We really want to promote a healthy work force," said Zvanut. "It's a big part of our value system."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each smoker costs companies thousands of dollars every year in lost production and increased health expenses.

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