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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

No Smoking Allowed for CLS Students

Published November 17, 2010 11:46 AM by Glen McDaniel

Recently I received an email from a colleague who is an educator, asking my opinion on what she thought might very well be an ethical, or even legal issue. She had just learned that several clinical sites are now requiring that the students they host be certified as nonsmokers. What??

Many hospitals are smoke free campuses for good reason. Their employees are not allowed to smoke on campus, visitors and patients may have a limited number of designated smoking areas outside the building. That makes sense for a variety of reasons: physical safety as well as to set an example in terms of health promotion.

Others have gone so far as making the decision not to hire smokers at all. Interestingly, courts have upheld the right of employers to hire only nonsmokers. Smokers tend to take more breaks than nonsmokers, decreasing productivity and putting an unfair burden on their nonsmoking colleagues. Smoking is a major contributing factor to many chronic diseases and cost employers much more in health-related expenses. Some companies have decided to reduce insurance premiums for nonsmokers; in effect making smokers bear the brunt of the expenses which they are likely to incur. That's fair.

Students are a different matter; they are not employees of the host facilities, they don't incur health-related expenses. It is perfectly reasonable to require that they follow workplace practices related to dress, safety, attendance, breaks and so on. It is even reasonable to mandate that they don't smoke anywhere on campus. But to require that they be totally smoke-free 24/7. Really? Even as a nonsmoker, I think that might be over-reaching. What's next: random cotinine tests to see if they have been sneak-smoking?

Have you heard of this requirement and what do you think about it?


The no smoking for students is just stupid and I am not even a smoker. In fact I think smokers take way too many breaks. But whatever someone does on their own time is their business. If I was a student or an educator I would fight that stupid rule. Are they going to look at what we eat like fast foods next???? Get a grip.

As far as flu shots, that is pretty much the norm this year. Hospitals are making it mandatory for employees to get flu shots. Just Google and see. This is not a surprise at all. Everyone is doing it.

Silas MLS December 14, 2010 2:20 PM
burlington VT

Taylor, my hospital was just told the same thing about 4 weeks ago. At first it was just nurses and direct caregivers, but now we in the lab were directed we must get flu shots or wear masks. I went ahead and got mine. But some folks held out. I think the smoking thing for students on their own time is over the top. But I am also worried by the creeping rules like this flu thing. The people who refuse will either get in trouble or have to wear a hot uncomfortable mask while working and talking on the phone. That migh be overkill just like the no-smoking thing.

Dee MT(ASCP) December 11, 2010 2:57 PM
Union City GA

We were just told that we have to get the flu shots or else we have to wear masks. If we dont get the shot and dont wear a mask we can be disciplined. After being caught the third time without a mask you will be terminated. This has nothing to do with smoking, but it seems like employers are becoming harder on what they require from employees.

We always had the right to refuse hepatitis and flu shots. We would sign a paper saying we were offered but refused. That seems fair to me. But now we must get a flu shot or risk job loss. They will put a sticker on our badge when we get the shot so we can be easily identified. Give me a break!

I am wondering if anyone else is experiencing that rule at work. I hear several hospitals in Atlanta are doing this. I am also interested to know what other drastic rules they are seeing. I got sick after getting the flu shots. I know they claim it doesnt give us the flu, but I never get sick when I dont get the shot and I got sick in 2008 and 2009 when I got the shot. So figure. I dont want to get a shot this year but time is running out and I certainly dont want to lose my job.

Taylor J. MT December 8, 2010 8:16 PM
Decatur GA

As a recent student AND a non-smoker, even I do not think that is reasonable.  We were required to follow the rules of the campus and in the place I did my rotations the entire city was "smoke free".  It is reasonable that smokers should refrain from smoking while acting as a member of that particular team, because, even though not employed, they are still a representative of that facility.  People are not stupid and the "example" we set isn't going to sway the minds of the patient in general.  I think the student ought to be able to do what they want on their own time as long as it is not affecting their work or the image of the facility.

As a patient I do not like being tended to by a nurse, Dr., phlebotomist or cashier that is a smoker.  As a patient, I have the right to request a different provider or refuse service if the lingering odor of their cigarette is offensive to me.  I can reasonably expect my provider to give me the best care they can without shoving their personal opinion on me and they ought to be able to receive the same treatment.  While I definitely appreciate the smoker who at least attempts to cover the odor, it is still my responsibility as the patient to choose my provider.  It is my responsibility as the provider to respect the wishes of the patient and if they refuse my service that is their wish.  I shouldn't take it personally, it is what it is.  We have a right to be honest with the world and an obligation to do what we know is right.  We do not have the right to tell someone what they can and can not do to themselves.  Yes there are consequences to those actions ie..higher premiums for smokers, unfair lives etc... but it is still our choice.

Cora Dimitt, generalist - MT December 4, 2010 6:22 PM
Nixa MO

That seems a bit extreme. I don't really know how the education programs would police that. There are some smoking controls that the hospital can and should enforce.

If the hospital is a smoke-free campus (and many are), the student should be required to follow those rules. Disciplinary action may be invoked if these rules are not followed. But to screen and take only non-smokers is over the edge.

The hospital may also monitor sideline issues with smoking such as the smell of smoke on clothing, etc. This may impact on sick patients and could present a problem in the work environment.

Students should be aware that there are healthcare institutions that charge the smoker a higher premium for health insurance. It is my understanding that if the employee is not honest about this fact and develops a smoking-related illness, the cost may not be covered. Some food for thought for smokers, in general.

Sheryl November 23, 2010 11:25 AM

I did hear that some hospitals do not hire smokers and at first  I was surprised to hear that move is not illegal. I havent heard about hospitals or colleges requiring the same of students. I think with the poor health in this country it's not a bad idea. We all have to pay extra premium and taxes for people who dont take care of themselves and have all these unhealthy habits.  As long as it's legal, why not refuse to hire nonsmokers? It's not like they dont have a choice.

Maria K. MT (ASCP) November 20, 2010 11:44 PM
Flatbush NY

This is just a bit much.  I don't think that there has been enough research performed on addictions, especially with respect to nicotine, that we should consider ourselves ready to judge people who are otherwise productive law-abiding citizens.  When people are found with illegal drugs in their system, they are usually given several opportunities to rehabilitate before losing their jobs, and nicotine is not even an illegal drug; possibly the reason for its popular use.  Some of the best technicians that I have ever worked with have been smokers.  Do they not deserve the right to feed their families, while child abusers and neglecters, illegal drug users and others do, as long as they portray a "picture of health" on the outside?  Also, I was childless for many years, but my insurance premiums paid for the illnesses of people with houses full of kids.  I do not have diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney problems,or mental illnesses, some of the more common illnesses being paid for by insurance.  Yet, my insurance premiums pay for that.  Are we now able to pick and choose which illnesses we will fix, and which we will not?   These same insurance companies will pay to rehabilitate an illegal drug user family member, but will not pay for smoking cessation or rehabilitation programs for smokers?  I could go on and on.  However, apparently, precedents have already been set legally and we are headed in this ridiculous direction.   I have not cared for the direction that the hospital administration has been moving toward for a long time, but now this is the icing on the cake.  Thank goodness I am, hopefully, nearing the end of my career in this field.  Good luck to everyone left dealing with this ignorance!

Monica, MLT (ASCP) November 17, 2010 2:27 PM

I dont smoke but this sounds crazy to me. How are they going to check. If a student lies and the hospital finds out is the student going to have to find another site? I dont think this is legal.Just when we need more people in the profession someone comes up with another crazy rule.

Mark Thomas MT November 17, 2010 1:12 PM
Bedford MA

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