Monday, March 14, 2011
Thank you for not smoking redux
Your employer can tell you to smoke outside. Can they tell you not to smoke at all?
As a doctor, I'm pretty happy that many states and institutions have banned indoor smoking. With the patients I treat, there's a drastic difference between smokers and non-smokers in terms of suffering and longevity. Smokers get lots more of the former, less of the latter.
I wrote previously about e-cigarettes and their growing ubiquity in the para-smoking world. I also blogged from the Cleveland Clinic's 2010 Patient Experience Summit, where I learned that Mike Roizen, the Clinic's Chief Wellness Officer, had successfully banned all smoking in employees.
"Kind of par for the course for a hospital," I remember thinking at first blush. Then he repeated his statement: he'd banned smoking entirely.
Translation: if you smoke, they don't hire you. If you start smoking, they fire you (at the time I heard him the policy was three years old; two employees had been fired to that point under the policy).
"How can they know what you do on your own time?" you ask. Well, like life insurers, the Clinic tests prospective employees for nicotine metabolites in the urine. You can fib on the questionnaire, but if you've recently smoked tobacco, you can't escape the test.
Now the New York Times is reporting that hospitals in eight states have adopted similar policies. Many have been consulting the Clinic for guidance, where the policy has been in place since 2007.
I've always been slightly amused when I walk by clusters of nurses, transporters, environmental service workers (janitors) or patients clustered near the exits of our medical center, getting their fix, usually in shirt sleeves, before heading back into the building. Sometimes I wish the designated smoking areas were a couple of miles away from the exits--then we'd be less likely to inhale a train of smoke as we walk the gauntlet. At least the employees should know better, I often think, stunned to see respiratory therapists in the mix. The same therapists whose job it is to suction pus from the lungs of asthmatics and emphysemics.
Though I find the article's trend-spotting interesting and in line with my professional values, I think it goes a bit too far in the personal privacy realm. After all, cigarettes, though vilified, are still legal for adults. Will employers start the practice of not hiring other "health-risky" employees (e.g. obese, hypertensive or diabetic patients)?
What do you think about this?
Clever incentive to make workers at health care institutions walk the walk, or trampling of a civil liberty? Let me have your comments.
This post by John H. Schumann, FACP, originally appeared at GlassHospital. Dr. Schumann is a general internist in Chicago's south side, and an educator at the University of Chicago, where he trains residents and medical students in both internal medicine and medical ethics. He is also faculty co-chair of the university's human rights program. His blog, GlassHospital, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people that inhabit them.
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Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.
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Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Iowa City, IA, with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).
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Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.
Juliet K. Mavromatis, MD, FACP, provides a conversation about health topics for patients and health professionals.
Dr. Mintz' Blog
Matthew Mintz, MD, FACP, has practiced internal medicine for more than a decade and is an Associate Professor of Medicine at an academic medical center on the East Coast. His time is split between teaching medical students and residents, and caring for patients.
Toni Brayer, MD, FACP, blogs about the rapid changes in science, medicine, health and healing in the 21st century.
Vineet Arora, MD, FACP, is Associate Program Director for the Internal Medicine Residency and Assistant Dean of Scholarship & Discovery at the Pritzker School of Medicine for the University of Chicago. Her education and research focus is on resident duty hours, patient handoffs, medical professionalism, and quality of hospital care. She is also an academic hospitalist.
John H. Schumann, MD, FACP, provides transparency on the workings of medical practice and the complexities of hospital care, illuminates the emotional and cognitive aspects of caregiving and decision-making from the perspective of an active primary care physician, and offers behind-the-scenes portraits of hospital sanctums and the people who inhabit them.
Ryan Madanick, MD, ACP Member, is a gastroenterologist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and the Program Director for the GI & Hepatology Fellowship Program. He specializes in diseases of the esophagus, with a strong interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who have difficult-to-manage esophageal problems such as refractory GERD, heartburn, and chest pain.
Mike Aref, MD, PhD, FACP, is an academic hospitalist with an interest in basic and clinical science and education, with interests in noninvasive monitoring and diagnostic testing using novel bedside imaging modalities, diagnostic reasoning, medical informatics, new medical education modalities, pre-code/code management, palliative care, patient-physician communication, quality improvement, and quantitative biomedical imaging.
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Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.
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The Public Library of Science's open access materials include a blog.
One of the most popular anonymous blogs written by an emergency room physician.