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The University of Pennsylvania Health System has announced that beginning this July, it will no longer hire anyone who is a smoker or other tobacco user. The new policy is being to improve worker health and lower the cost of health insurance coverage. New hires must have not used tobacco for at least six months, and any employee who is caught lying about his or her tobacco use may be fired.

The policy will not affect current employees, 11 percent of whom are tobacco users, and already pay a higher premium for health insurance (about $15 extra every two weeks).

The system, which includes the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said the The details are outlined on the system's website at

Citing the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the system said smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to 443,000 premature deaths a year and cost $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity.

"Employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year for health care. In addition, smoke breaks during work may be disruptive and subject patients/colleagues to the unpleasant smell of smoke on employees' scrubs and clothing," the system said on its website. –

While the Penn system’s new policy may seem extreme, many other hospital systems around the country have already implemented similar policies that are even stricter. MaineHealth, which runs the Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine, makes smoking employees pay an extra almost $50 every two weeks for their health insurance coverage, and also charges extra to employees who are overweight (have a high BMI), have high blood pressure, have high cholesterol, and/or have high fasting glucose levels. Every year employees must pass extensive health screenings to be exempt from the extra charges.

A lot of people complain about government exerting too much control over people’s personal life choices. But we don't hear so many complaints about the control exerted by non-government industries like this. What do you think about health care systems and other companies refusing to hire smokers or other people with potential health issues? Should these companies be allowed to charge certain people more for health insurance because of their health status? How would we feel if our state or federal government implemented a similar policy with its own tax code?

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