Cigarette smoking is still legal, but it’s certainly gotten more inconvenient. In Flagler County, Florida nicotine will be considered a banned drug beginning October 1, 2013. This means that along with submitting to a toxicology screening for illegal drugs, prospective employees of the county will also be screened for nicotine. If someone fails the screening, he or she is prohibited from reapplying for 12 months.
The trend to ban smoking in public and professional places is an old one, but there has been a marked increase in attempts to limit where one can smoke. The University of Maryland and the University of Massachusetts both instituted campus-wide bans on smoking, to include e-cigarettes. However, they don’t go so far as to insist that students be nicotine-free even when off-campus.
The justification for these policies is tied to the increased health-risk associated with tobacco use, especially with regards to employment and health insurance. A provision in the Affordable Care Act, or ACA, allows smokes to be charged 50 percent more than non-smokers by insurance companies. Thus, when employers exclude smokers, they can save money on employee health insurance.
Critics of these bans call the practices discriminatory, but tobacco users are not a group that has equal protection under federal law. However public-health advocates find themselves on the same side as "Big Tobacco" when it comes to both these lifestyle bans and the ACA smoker provision. Said Dr. Michael Siegel, a Boston University professor who has studied the trend, “Unemployment is also bad for health.” Rather than discouraging smoking, these sort of policies end up punishing the smoker for using a perfectly legal product.
In Flagler County the 635 current employees are exempt from the ban. The County Commission is also exempt including “those individuals who may run for office in the future.”