Fla. hospital won't hire smokers after Jan. 1 - FOX 35 News Orlando

Fla. hospital won't hire smokers after Jan. 1

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If you smoke, don't bother applying for a job at Bert Fish Medical Center in New Smyrna Beach.

Starting Jan. 1, the hospital will no longer hire tobacco users.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal (http://bit.ly/1d9QnqK ) reports applicants will be tested for a nicotine byproduct and sign an agreement to remain tobacco-free throughout their employment. The policy doesn't apply to volunteers, medical staff or some 700 employees who are already working at the hospital.

In 2009 the hospital became a smoke-free campus. In January 2012, it started charging $25 per paycheck for smokers who elect to take health insurance.

"We are in the health care business, and we should be a role model," said Nancy Evolga, executive director of human resources for the hospital. "There is 50 years of data that says tobacco use is bad."

If an employee hired after Jan. 1 tests positive for the nicotine byproduct will be subject to disciplinary action up to termination.

A health-risk survey found that about 22 percent of the hospital's employees use tobacco. Evolga said the hospital offers free tobacco-cessation counseling to employees and their families.

The newspaper reports that money collected from tobacco users is pooled to fund a wellness initiative called Fit for Life. Employees are offered yoga classes at the hospital, or they can take healthy meals home, or join walking clubs.

Hospital officials say the decision was made in part because of the high health care costs and lost productivity associated with smoking.

"Our mission is to improve the overall health of our southeast Volusia community, not just treat illness," the hospital's chief executive officer told the News-Journal. "Bert Fish Medical Center sets an example for other businesses to improve the health of their workforce by not hiring tobacco users."

Other area hospitals have taken similar actions, including Florida Hospital Flagler in Palm Coast and Florida Hospital Fish Memorial in Orange City. Neither facilities hire smokers.

The newspaper reports that all hospital campuses in Volusia and Flagler counties are smoke-free.

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