Arkansas hospital taking stand against hiring tobacco users

If you have a job interview at one Arkansas hospital the first question most likely won't be about your experience, but rather do you smoke?

Cigarettes, dip, cigars and even electronic cigarettes are things that could keep you out of the running.

A Baptist Health official told us today it's happy to be the first Little Rock hospital to take an anti-tobacco stand against its job applicants.

"We feel like if a health care organization can't take a stand like this, who is going to be the first ones to do it? You're right it is a little bit of a step out there," said Tony Kendall, Vice President of Human Resources at Baptist.

The top of every application reads "Baptist Health will only hire tobacco and nicotine free employees."

Kendall said its rising cost for insurance pushed the company to make such a drastic change.

"A lot of that increase and stuff can be attributed to the health impacts of smoking and nicotine," he added.

Baptist consulted with White County Hospital in Searcy another place that's had the same policy for some time now.

"It's a business decision that employers are making increasingly across the country that helps reduce their overhead costs and it's been proven to be effective," Ed Barham with the Arkansas State Health Department.

Barham added that even though under state regulations people must leave a hospital's campus to smoke, it doesn't make it safe.

"Even third-hand smoke when it's in your hair or on your clothes can affect a person that is sensitive," he said. "People who are in the hospital that are critically ill are in that category for certain."

The American Civil Liberties Union was able to comment Wednesday about the change.

Baptist Health admits its applicants could decrease because of this new rule.

The hospital said current employees will actually be grand fathered into the system, and it doesn't plan to start randomized testing for any employees.