Can smoking cigarettes cost you a job?

Can smoking cigarettes cost you a job?

A surprising announcement in Florida this week puts smokers on notice—If you plan to work in Flagler county, you’ll soon have to pass a nicotine test before you can start.

Last month, County Commissioner Board members in Flagler, voted to require all future county employees to undergo nicotine testing. And it doesn’t stop there. Additionally, they want all future employees to sign an affidavit pledging that they will remain tobacco-free for the duration of their employment.

Even though the vote has raised flags for civil liberties groups who call the new requirement unconstitutional, county leaders say they simply don’t agree.

In a statement to ABC News, the board chair called the measure similar to other initiatives that promote healthier lifestyles amongst employees like its weight-loss program.

Recent research, from an Ohio State Univerisity study released in June, shows employers in the private sector shell out on average more than $5,800 more each year for employees who smoke tobacco compared to those who don’t.

“At the end of the day, for the taxpayers, it’s a smart business decision,” McLaughlin told ABC News.

Even with the negative publicity, Flagler leaders say other public employers in the county have already adopted similar policies, including the sheriff’s department. And if all goes according to plan, testing would begin for county applicants in October as part of the drug screening that the county already conducts.

The new policy makes it clear, if you test positive for nicotine use, you will not be considered for employment and will not be eligible to reapply for another year. If you are a new employee and pass the initial screening, you are still not in the clear. Thanks to the pledge you must sign— committing to stay tobacco-free, your job could be on the line if you violate the policy.

It’s still not clear whether opponents of the new policy will push to have it struck down because of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In the past, on a number of occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down similar cases that proposed blanket testing of public employees—citing the Fourth Amendment.

For now, Flagler County leaders are standing firmly by their new policy.

“You have a responsibility to the public,” County Administrator Craig Coffey told ABC News. “It’d be no different than doing a credit check on people handling money. In this case, it’s a tobacco check.”

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  1. How is this any different then the tobacco free pledge that advocate makes employees who take benefits do? Personally I don’t smoke so it doesn’t matter but, those who do are being penalized in their paycheck every pay period…how is that fair?

  2. Failing a nicotine test doesn’t mean you are a smoker. Many have quit using e-cigarettes and no longer smoke but will fail a nicotine test. If the intent is truly to eliminate the health care costs caused by smoking, a carbon monoxide test is available.
    But this is more about politics and money. Health care cost is just a smoke screen.

  3. If this is what America expects from it’s people, why don’t they eliminate everything that is unhealthy off the market?;…Could it be because these are the most profitable markets that are out there? Seems to me this country is becoming more communist every minute of the day! Extremely hypocritical is my point of view. And just where are all of these “unhealthy, unperfect human beings”supposed to work, and how are their families going to survive? Get real America before the real problem becomes apparent to all.

  4. How is smoking any worse than consuming alcohol every single evening? I work at a place that charges smokers 100 dollars a month for smoking when there are several employees that are heavy drinkers. How is that fair?

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health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.