Humana Uses Nicotine Testing to Eliminate Smokers

In Arizona, the health insurance company Humana will no longer be hiring new employees who smoke or use other tobacco products including cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco and cigars. Being in the healthcare industry Humana feels they will be an effective example for this emerging trend among other employers. Currently in effect Humana’s policy is to drug test any new worker for use of nicotine. In the event of a positive test the employee will not be eligible to work for the company. If the new employee tests negative for nicotine they will have to agree to remain tobacco free while being employed by the company. If a new hire does start using tobacco, they are required to report their use and enroll in a free program that provides aid such as counseling and nicotine-replacement products to help kick the habit.

Nicotine testing is a growing trend for employers especially in the health care field. In 2007 the Cleveland Clinic stopped hiring tobacco-using employees as well as other medical facilities in the metro Phoenix area. Being in the health care field, Humana representatives feel that it their duty to lead by example. The unhealthy conditions smoking creates in the human body are life threatening. Humana aims to promote health and wellness starting from within their own company.

Other employers have begun financial incentives for being nicotine free such as lowering health care costs. Companies also have adapted “wellness plans” that measures if an employee’s body-mass index surpasses the healthy amount, or if cholesterol levels are alarming high- can indicate future health problems.

Recently in Arizona employees have complained about a new health plan that requires an employee to turn in a saliva sample to test for nicotine. The employees resisted stating it was an invasion of privacy. The employees who did agreed to take the nicotine test and passed have lowered their insurance premiums by $480 less than what smokers and employees who declined to take the test must pay.

There is nothing under Arizona state law that prohibits Humana from not hiring smokers, legal experts say.  What do you think about it?

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