Dear ServiceNet Staff,
As many of you already know, ServiceNet will be following the lead of our health insurance provider Health New England, along with thousands of hospitals, health care organizations, and other companies across the country, in modifying our hiring policy to no longer hire smokers. Beginning January 1, 2013, we will not hire smokers into any ServiceNet position. Given the potential controversial nature of this policy, this decision was not made lightly; rather, the proposed change was under consideration by senior management for more than two years. We considered input from staff across the agency, and we are in the process of formally discussing the implications of this new policy with our three unions.
Tobacco use is the number one preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the American Medical Association. 50% of all smokers will eventually die of smoking-related causes, and on average, adults who smoke cigarettes die 14 years earlier than nonsmokers, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.
We also know that 49% of all cigarettes smoked in America are smoked by people with a serious mental illness or drug addiction, and several research studies have shown that people with serious mental illness die up to 25 years younger than the general population. In short, smoking is a huge threat to the health and well-being of the people we serve. Put simply, all of the residential support, counseling, family therapy, sheltering, medication services, outreach programs, and other supports we offer people to improve the quality of their lives cannot help people who are no longer alive!
It is now an accepted evidence-based practice, endorsed by the AMA and other healthcare groups, for all health care providers (regardless of their specialty or area of practice) to ask their patients/clients/consumers/participants about their smoking habits, to regularly inform smokers about the risk of early death, counsel smokers about the importance of stopping, and, to the extent possible, make available nicotine replacement therapies and other supports to people who want to quit. It has been shown that these interventions can significantly reduce clients’ smoking. In addition, it is important for us, as health care providers, to be role models to the people we serve. It diminishes the power of our words when our clients smell cigarette smoke on our clothing, notice a pack of cigarettes in our pockets, or see us smoking (even during off hours). It is for these compelling reasons that we have come to the decision not to hire smokers, and to do whatever we can to encourage and support smoking cessation efforts on the part of current employees who smoke.
Of course, in addition to being concerned with client wellness, we also care about the health and well-being of ServiceNet’s dedicated workers; and we are hoping that a side benefit of this new policy will be increased attention to this important issue, and increased motivation to quit on the part of staff who smoke. It is my hope that over time, fewer and fewer of our employees will be smokers.
Several questions have arisen regarding this new policy. I will attempt to address the most “frequently asked questions” here:
A: No. However, we hope to offer
more support to current staff who smoke and wish to quit
Q: Does ServiceNet have plans to mandate that existing staff become non-smokers in the future?
A: No, we have no such plan.
Existing staff were hired under existing policies, and we believe it would be
unfair to change the rules after the fact.
Q: How will ServiceNet tell if someone is a smoker?
A: The policy will be communicated
in all of our employment ads, applicants will be asked about their smoking
status during the application process, and new hires will be asked to sign an
affidavit, similar to one being used by Health New England, certifying that
they are non-smokers.
Q: How will ServiceNet enforce the policy, for example, if it comes to light that a person lied on his or her job application, or resumed smoking at some point after coming to work at ServiceNet?
A: Infractions will be handled the
way we would handle other misrepresentations on a job application, and/or
violations of our staff conduct policy. As with other infractions, many factors
are taken into consideration in disciplining staff.
Q: What about other unhealthy lifestyle choices? For instance, does ServiceNet have plans to restrict hiring of people who are obese?
A: No, we do not have plans to apply any other health-related restrictions to our hiring.