By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Cigarettes, cigars, snuff, and chewing tobacco are all legally sold in the state of Alabama to adults. That said, if you use any of those products UAB Medicine will soon not hire you.
UAB Medicine announced that it is launching a tobacco-free hiring policy for all new hires on or after July 1, 2013. According to original reporting by Jennifer Lollar, UAB Health System CEO, Dr. Will Ferniany said, “Tobacco use is a major cause of illness and death in our state. For more than 100 years, UAB Medicine has been dedicated to preserving health and preventing diseases in Birmingham and beyond. As health-care providers, UAB Medicine and the entities that comprise it should be role models for good health behaviors, and lead by example in the quest for good health. We believe one of the best ways to accomplish this is to encourage people to stop using tobacco products and, in anticipation of the 37th Great American Smokeout tomorrow, we are announcing our new hiring policy.”
After July 1, 2013 Smokers need not apply for any jobs with the UAB Health System, UAB Hospital, University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, The Kirklin Clinic, The Kirklin Clinic at Acton Road, UAB Callahan Eye Hospital, University of Alabama Ophthalmology Services Foundation, Triton Health Systems L.L.C./VIVA Health Inc. and UAB Health Centers. The policy does not apply to the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a whole.
Dr. Ferniany said, “We care deeply for all members, and prospective members, of the UAB Medicine family, and as health-care providers we wanted to take a major step toward providing a healthier environment for employees, patients and hospital visitors. Our intent is not to eliminate people from applying for positions with UAB Medicine, but rather to send the message that as the largest health-care provider in the state, we are committed to the health of our employees and all Alabamians.”
UAB Medicine will test all applicants for tobacco. A positive nicotine test will be treated just like a positive test for an illegal substance and those who test positive will not get the job. Tobacco users who already work for UAB will not be affected by the new company wide policy. Dr. Ferniany said, “Our employees are the most valuable asset UAB Medicine has and their health and that of their families is very important to us. Knowing that tomorrow is the Great American Smokeout, we are encouraging current members of the UAB Medicine family to take advantage of the many programs and services, including smoking-cessation classes, which we provide. They can visit the UAB Employee Wellness website for more details on all of these services.”
UAB is the largest employer in the state of Alabama. Smoking contributes to poorer health, thus eliminating smokers from the employee census should lower employee healthcare costs and consequentially lower health insurance premiums.
In theory UAB’s new employment policy could also be applied to potential employees who are overweight or consume alcoholic beverages. There is no state law protecting tobacco users from job discrimination.