Humana bans hiring smokers to promote healthy behavior

In an attempt to lead by example in promoting health and wellness, Humana (NYSE: HUM) has announced it will no longer hire smokers in its five Arizona locations.

Humana's ban for new hires, which began Friday, applies to all tobacco products, including cigarettes, pipes, chewing tobacco and cigars. Employees must agree to abstain from tobacco use while working for the company; if they do smoke, they must self-report their use and enroll in a free tobacco-cessation program. Humana will enforce the no-smoking policy by testing new employees for nicotine use during a pre-employment urine drug screen, reports the Arizona Republic.

"It's not an issue of discriminating against smokers; we know that smoking is the largest cause of preventable diseases in the United States," Jeff Chicaots, regional vice president for Humana, told ABC15. "We're an organization that is going to promote behavior and lifestyle and if we don't do it who will?"

"Humana is dedicated to helping our employees take charge of their own health," said Dr. Charles Cox, Humana vice president and market medical officer for Arizona, Nevada and Utah. "Our new hiring process is how we are going to lead by example."

Humana may expand the smoking ban to employees in other states, but the company hasn't announced any plans yet. The health insurer implemented a similar tobacco-cessation program at its Ohio offices in July 2009, and 78 percent of program participants are still tobacco-free, according to the Arizona Republic.

To learn more:
- read the Arizona Republic article
- check out the ABC15 piece
- see the Phoenix Business Journal article