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Citing Health Reasons, Hospital Refuses Jobs to Tobacco Users

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Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tenn., says it will no longer hire users of tobacco products, saying the decision is rooted in concerns about community health, not a desire for cost savings.

The Associated Press reported Jan. 18 that the nonprofit hospital will begin screening job applicants for the presence of nicotine and will disqualify any who test positive for the drug. The ban would include users of nicotine gum or patches.

“I understand the concerns people have, but we are here for the health of our community,” said Bob Pope, vice president of human resources at the hospital. “Like it or not, what's proven is that tobacco is the most preventable cause of death and disability in the United States. I think the Chattanooga and surrounding communities should expect this from Memorial.”

Current employees won't be affected by the change. Some critics call such policies — usually adopted by companies seeking to prevent health costs and improve productivity — discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.

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