On December 16, the Pima County municipality will vote the free-tobacco plan that would also give the right to county’s representatives to request nicotine tests whenever employees are suspected that they secretly smoke at work or at home.
Allyn Bulzomi told press that this wasn’t an attempt to punish anybody, rather an attempt to encourage people to stay healthy.
After December 16, anyone who would want to get a job in a county office, such as Arizona University, would have to bring their employers a doctor’s paper proving that they hadn’t been smoking for at least one year or simply take a tobacco test to prove it.
Also, people that already have a job will get a $5 discount in their health-care biweekly pay if they sign a declaration under oath saying that they aren’t tobacco users. Also, smokers will have to pay an extra 30 percent of the current health contributions. The Pima County hopes that this will bring an extra $1 million as an annual saving.
Chuck Huckelberry, county official, said that, since Pima County is self-insured and its local tax-payers pay for health insurance, anything the county could do to reduce those taxes would be beneficial.
Allyn Bulzomi also said that the county would not issue random nicotine tests, but if an employee is suspected of being a smoker, a tobacco test could be mandatory.
“We’re going to use reasonable suspicion. If there is reasonable suspicion we will have a conversation and probably use a test,”
The Arizona County’s smoking ban was criticized by several medical workers for being both discriminating and dangerous.
“It is a form of employment discrimination. Discrimination is essentially making employment decisions based on a group to which someone belongs rather than their qualifications for the job,”
Dr. Michael Siegel, a public health professor, said.
However there’s nothing illegal in what Pima County intends to do since Arizona smokers are not protected by any discrimination law.
Dr. Siegel added that, although is also a fan of non-smoking working places, he believes this ban will turn into a “slippery slope” and in the future the county could also ban fat people or people predisposed to cancer from being hired on public offices.
The new policy would come into effect in July. In Pima County, there are currently more than 7.000 employed smokers, about one third of its population.