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Hospital Initiating ‘No Smoking’ Policy for New Workers

January 31, 1985

CHICAGO (AP) _ Workers who smoke cigarettes, pipers or cigars need not apply for jobs at a suburban hospital that on Friday is initiating a ″no smoking″ policy for all new employees.

″We as a health care institution stand for the prevention of illness,″ said Leonard Muller, president of Westlake Comunity Hospital in Melrose Park. ″We felt we should be a leader in cutting down smoking. One way to do it is not hire individuals who are smokers.″

New workers will be required to sign a statement saying they do not smoke - at the hospital or at home - and will remain non-smokers as a condition of employment, Muller said. If they begin smoking, they can be fired.

Current workers who smoke are not affected, but they, along with patients and visitors, will be subject to new restrictions in six months, Kathryne Oates, a spokeswoman for the 326-bed hospital said.

Muller acknowledged that Westlake’s policy is ″discriminatory to some degree,″ because new employees will not have the same rights as current workers.

But he said, ″We think this is legal discrimination. You have to get started somewhere. We felt it would be ... too unreasonable″ to require smokers already employed there to kick the habit.

About 28 percent of the hospital’s 1,200 employees are smokers, according to Ms. Oates.

Beginning July 1, smoking by employees and visitors would be restricted to certain areas and patients would be allowed to smoke only with their doctor’s permission, she said.

She also said the hospital would pay for any worker who wants to enroll in a program to help them stop smoking.

The ″no smoking″ policy will be included in job advertisements, Ms. Oates said. ″We’re going to be very up-front about it,″ she said.

The policy, which Ms. Oates said apparently is the first of its kind in the country, has drawn mixed reaction.

The American Cancer Society in Chicago applauded the program.

″Anyone who works in health care is much more aware of the detriments of smoking,″ said a spokeswoman who declined to be identified. ″To literally put their money where their mouth is sets an example for the country.″

But Jay Miller, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Illinois, said the policy is ″quite foolish and poorly thought out.″

″All they’re really doing is inviting new employees to lie,″ said Miller. He said he did not know how the courts would rule if the policy is challenged.

Muller admitted that it may be difficult to enforce the policy because there is no way to watch workers after hours.

″We will take people at their word,″ he said.

″If you say you’re a non-smoker, we will accept that, and you’ll sign a statement to that effect,″ Muller added. ″If you do begin, it’s cause for dismissal.″

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