Philadelphia Hospitals’ Ban On Hiring Smokers Sparks Debate

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Some of the top hospitals in Philadelphia will join dozens of other health care facilities across the country by refusing to hire smokers beginning on July 1. People that smoke will no longer be considered for employment at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania or the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which was named as America's top children's hospital this year by U.S. News and World Report.

Many fear that the move will cause potential employees to lie about their smoking habits and therefore become less likely to quit, Reuters reported. Civil liberties activists also see the ban in a negative light.

"It's not all slopes that are slippery, but this one really is," said former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Lewis Maltby. "What you do in your own home on your own time is none of your boss's business unless it affects your work. Virtually everything you do in your private life affects your health."

A professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, Michael Siegel, is also critical of the new policy.

"It is blatant employment discrimination," he said. "Employment decisions should be made based on a person's qualifications for a position. Once you step over that line and you start making decisions based on the group to which a person belongs that has no bearing on their actual qualifications, I think that's really dangerous.”

Although it has been speculated that a ban on smokers would greatly reduce the available labor pool, that has not really seemed to be an issue in the past. The Cleveland Clinic became one of the first and biggest medical centers to ban smokers when it implemented its policy in September of 2007 and it currently has 42,000 employees.

"It really never reduced our pool," said the Cleveland Clinic's medical director for employee services, Dr. Paul Terpeluk.

Sources: Reuters, MSN Now