Overweight smokers need not apply for the top job at Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County.
The health department this week adopted new employment policies taking effect next year that will require the health commissioner to be nicotine- and tobacco-free and maintain a body weight that “exemplifies a healthy standard of life.”
“If you’re going to try to motivate the entire community to live a healthy lifestyle … we need to set the tone, and the health commissioner needs to practice what he or she preaches,” said Jim Gross, the incumbent Montgomery County health commissioner.
The weight restriction applies only to the commissioner, and the health department’s board of directors will determine the appropriate body weight for each new commissioner, Gross said.
But the zero-tolerance tobacco policy will apply to all new applicants beginning the first of next year, while board members, executives and certain employees already on the payroll will be given until April 1, 2014 to comply. In addition, only employees who don’t smoke or use tobacco will be considered for promotions.
“Anyone who wants to be promoted and is a tobacco user must agree to go through tobacco cessation every six months until they do become tobacco free,” Gross said. “If they cannot become tobacco free, they have to continue to try every six months.”
The tobacco ban will affect about 30 to 40 existing employees, mainly asbestos inspectors, individuals conducting smoke-free workplace inspections and those leading tobacco-cessation classes, Gross said, noting that the overwhelming majority of employees and board of health members already are tobacco-free.
Some employees will remain exempt from the tobacco-use provisions, Gross said, but they won’t be allowed to smoke while on duty or on paid breaks, not including lunch breaks.
The board voted Wednesday to implement the new policies after considering the long-term health consequences of smoking and tobacco use for its employees and the general public, according to Gross, who said the new policies are intended to lower the incidence of chronic diseases and the cost of covering employees’ medical expenses.
Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke causes an estimated 443,000 premature deaths each year and costs the nation $193 billion in health bills and lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About a quarter of Ohio residents smoke, which is among the highest rates in the country, CDC statistics show.
A recent study by The Ohio State University College of Public Health found that companies incur an additional $6,000 per year in health-related expenses for employees who smoke versus those who do not.
“That’s an additional expense to taxpayers when you’re talking about the public sector,” he said, referring to the government-funded health department.
The health department is joining a number of companies and public entities in Ohio that have implemented tobacco-free hiring policies, including the Hollywood Casino in Toledo, Hamilton County Public Health in Cincinnati and the Cleveland Clinic.
The policies are highly controversial, often leading to claims of employment discrimination.
But Ohio — unlike many other states — does not have so-called “smoker protection” laws that prohibit employers from making employment decisions based on tobacco use.
After consulting with legal experts, Gross said he doesn’t anticipate any legal challenges to the health department’s tobacco-use policies.
“We don’t expect 100 percent agreement with the policy,” he said. “But we are comfortable with the policy we passed. We did our due diligence because we wanted to make sure to protect the taxpayers from any legal challenges.”
Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County Nicotine/Tobacco Policy
New Applicants and Employees Hired After Jan. 1, 2014
* Applicants for employment at Public Health will be asked about their use of nicotine and tobacco on the pre-employment application.
* Applicants who declare use of nicotine or tobacco use will not be considered for employment. Applicants may reapply for a position after they have been nicotine or
tobacco-free for 90 days.
* Employees hired after Jan. 1, 2014 shall not use nicotine or tobacco products at any time. Upon reasonable suspicion that such employee is using a nicotine or tobacco
product, they shall be subject to mandatory testing. A positive test for nicotine shall be sufficient cause for termination.
* Current employees hired before Jan. 1, 2014 and unaffected by other requirements will not be impacted by this new applicant hiring provision unless they leave the
organization and later apply for re-employment.
Current Employees and Officials as of Jan.1, 2014
* Current employees and program contractors shall not use nicotine/tobacco products while on duty (including paid breaks) or while on paid administrative leave. Those
employees and program contractors may use nicotine replacement therapy products. Employees have 90 days from the effective date of this policy to comply with this
* Current employees are encouraged to participate in cessation programs sponsored by Public Health or other approved programs. These programs may include nicotine
Photo gallery: There are some famous people who would not meetthe new criteria to be Montgomery County health commissioner. See who they are at MyDaytonDailyNews.com