Dayton employees banned from smoking, vaping as Ohio looks to cut medical costs

The policy will apply to employees who are hired after July 15 and will also ban them from using tobacco and nicotine products outside work.

                            Dayton employees banned from smoking, vaping as Ohio looks to cut medical costs

The city of Dayton, Ohio, will be moving ahead with a controversial policy which will mean that the city will no longer hire employees who use nicotine or tobacco.

The policy is being enforced in a bid to create a healthier workplace, eliminate thousands of dollars in medical costs accrued every year, and reduce the "loss of productivity" from smoke breaks, according to Dayton Daily News. 

The rule will apply to employees who are hired after July 15 and requires them to be tobacco- and nicotine-free as long as they work for the city, which is also trying to eliminate designated smoking areas.

Furthermore, these employees will be prohibited from using nicotine and tobacco products at work, as well as during their free time.

To ensure that it is followed, tests for the substances will be conducted not only during the pre-employment screening process but also if the city receives "reliable" information that its employees are using the products.  

However, there are exceptions. Employees hired before July 15 will not be affected by the policy. 

Applicants who are on a Dayton Civil Service eligibility list that was issued or effective after July 14 will be subject to different rules that mandate they take part in cessation activities during a probationary period if they tested positive. If they test positive again at the end of the probationary period, they are discharged.

Defending the decision, Kenneth Couch, Dayton's Director of Human Resources said, "Studies indicate that employees that smoke cost approximately an additional $6,000 per year in direct medical costs and lost productivity."

Couch also cited research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which estimated that employees who smoke cost employers an additional $170 billion in direct medical care and an additional $156 billion in lost productivity. 

But many have expressed concern over the policy, including union leaders who have described it as a "slippery slope" to potentially intrusive workplace requirements that restrict lifestyle choices which are lawful and do not affect work performance.

Rick Oakley, the president of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 44, conceded that some of the city's most expensive health care claims are related to diseases caused by tobacco and nicotine but said it would hurt police recruitment in an already tough environment.

He revealed that a quarter of the police force uses tobacco and that most at least use chewing tobacco, and said a survey of police and fire recruits conducted when the policy was proposed suggested both departments would have lost a quarter of their classes. 

Speaking about the policy, Ann Sulfridge, president of AFSCME Local 101, which represents about 800 blue-collar and clerical city employees, said, "It narrows the pool of candidates you can draw from. I would rather see more carrot and less stick."

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