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Nicotine Testing Of Job Applicants On The Rise

Updated on May 23, 2015
All the education and skills in the world won't land you the job if you can't pass the nicotine test
All the education and skills in the world won't land you the job if you can't pass the nicotine test | Source

They're Serious About "No Smoking"

Recently I applied for a position at a local hospital. I was surprised when the human resources director informed me that I would be tested for the presence of nicotine in my system, in addition to the standard drug testing that is required. Although I wasn't worried about the outcome of the test, it made me really think about how this was getting a little too far into my personal business.

Thinking this one hospital was being too aggressive with their "no smoking" policy, I researched it and found that in the United States,this kind of testing is becoming the norm in the medical profession field and other professions as well, including some health insurance companies.

Reasons Behind the Tests

The following are the most prevailing reasons given for nicotine testing of job applicants, and why employment would be denied for a tobacco user:

Promote Healthy Lifestyles

Especially in medical settings, leading by example reinforces the message that healthier choices lead to less medical problems. Administrators say that by medical staff encouraging their patients not to smoke while doing it themselves is being hypocritical.

Reduce Insurance Costs

Premiums are higher for tobacco users and this increases the cost to the employer that pays for health insurance as an employee benefit.

Reduce Absenteeism

Sick days taken by an employee causes workload and production issues.Smoking can cause or make someone more susceptible to respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia, resulting in extended time away from work.

Is It Fair? Is It Legal?

The above may be valid reasons, but if employers are using these reasons for denying an otherwise qualified individual, due to being "potentially unhealthy", couldn't eating too much junk food, drinking too much coffee or not properly managing your diabetes also fit the above three reasons given? Of course,to be denied employment for being overweight or having existing health problems is blatant discrimination. They are protected by government disability or civil rights laws such as Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Some legal experts seem to agree that smoker's rights should also be protected against work related discrimination practices, simply because it comes down to the act of pre-determining someone's health based on a habit that occurs away from work.Therefore, a person's medical issues are protected by these laws.

Currently, 29 US states have laws that do not allow for tobacco testing of job applicants.

Impact of Second Hand Smoke

For the person who does not smoke, being exposed to second hand smoke can also be adversely affected by these anti-tobacco hiring policies. Second hand smoke can be enough to cause a positive result on nicotine tests, although at low or moderate levels. Interestingly, nicotine levels of passive smokers can sometimes show up in a urine test for 15-20 days according to some estimates.

Those that have quit smoking, using the help of nicotine patches or electronic cigarettes that use vaporized nicotine, will show positive results as well. It is unfortunate to be denied employment for the one who lives with a smoker or for one making an effort to stop smoking.

Testing is usually done with a urine test and sometimes a blood test or a saliva test. Nicotine is a natural ingredient of tobacco found in cigarettes, chewing tobacco and snuff. Once the nicotine enters the body, it can show up in urine, blood, saliva or hair. Depending on the amount and frequency of tobacco use, the levels of nicotine and the length of time it remains in the body will vary.

Nervous About Your Chances Of Passing A Test?

If you recently stopped smoking, or if you are affected by second hand smoke at home, this convenient home test kit can give you an idea of whether or not you would pass the official test given as part of a job application. It can give you peace of mind if you are nervous about results that could eliminate you from consideration for a job.

Do You Agree?

Do you agree with the use of nicotine testing in the workplace?

See results

Something To Ponder

Because of all the research and statistics, no one can deny that smoking is unhealthy. It can be viewed as a positive that employers are encouraging people to give up such a destructive habit.It can also be viewed as infringing on a person's right to choose what they do at home.

The controversy is heaviest among smokers and non-smokers, each taking sides on the issue. But it should not be just a matter of whether it is right or wrong based on a smoker/non-smoker point of view. It should concern anyone with a neutral stance because at any given time they may find themselves facing a new hiring practice that excludes them from getting they job they want.

Comments welcome!

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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      I recently quit dipping. It is one of the hardest things I've ever done.

      That said, the idea that nicotine testing would be done is highly offensive to me. You are supposed to have the right to make choices. Whether or not I do or don't use tobacco is up to me, not something I am to be bullied into by Big Brother.

      Enlightening hub.

    • Bonsat74 profile image

      John 2 years ago from London

      Smoking is a persons choice, if smoking is that bad then don't sell them simples