Can a Dentist Announce That They Will Not Hire a Smoker?

Here is another guest post from our friends at ETS Dental, authored by Tiffany Worstell.

We all know the effects that cigarette smoking has on a person; it has been shown for years in the media.  We have seen the yellowing teeth, bad breath, wrinkles, and probably know individuals that have had even more detrimental health issues stemming from the activity.  More and more, smoking is being banned in public places and employers are following suit.  So what does this mean for your practice?

Can I legally not hire smokers?
A number of employers have gone on record announcing that they will not hire smokers. And, while this sounds as if it the company is promoting a culture of wellness, it can be construed as discrimination.  In fact, there are twenty nine states and the District of Columbia that have protection in place for smokers; below is a list of the states as reported by the American Lung Association. 

■District of Columbia
■New Hampshire
■New Jersey
■New Mexico
■New York
■North Carolina
■North Dakota
■Rhode Island
■South Carolina
■South Dakota
■West Virginia

If you are hiring in these states, it is illegal to base your decision to hire, or not to hire, simply on if the candidate is a smoker. You can, however, choose not to hire a candidate based on other, legal, factors.   Frankly, you may miss out of some great talent by limiting the pool based upon if the candidate smokes as the single factor as the CDC found that 19% of all American adults were smokers in 2010.
What can I do as an employer?
As an employer, it is within your right to ban smoking on your property.  While this will not stop the smokers completely, it will deter the activity on company time and in front of your patients.

It is also worthwhile to look into cessation plans for your employees.  If your dental practice currently offers an EAP (Employee Assistance Program), look into the benefits that it provides and encourage your staff to take advantage of the services.  

Another option to consider is a having cessation program available. The American Lung Association endorses its own program, Freedom From Smoking, as an option for employers to provide to their staff; it allows the employee different options to cater to their own lifestyle such as online support, a hotline, and one on one support.  For more information, check out this site: Freedom From Smoking.

With the right resources and encouragement; you can make a difference in promoting a smoke free workplace while retaining quality staff.  Monitor the results of your efforts and listen to the feedback of the staff members.  It is possible to have a happy, healthy staff.  A happy staff is a productive staff; and that is not just “blowing smoke.”  

Contributed by Tiffany Worstell, Dental Staff Recruiter- Nationwide. 

To Contact Tiffany, call 540-491-9112, or email at

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