Smokers can’t qualify for some metro jobs

A growing number of Metro Atlanta companies are taking a tough stance on smokers by disqualifying them if they apply for a job.

Even if they’re less than honest on the application, new hires will be tested for tobacco use.

“It is a question on the application,” said Mark Williams, a spokesman for Georgia Power. “All new hires are subjected to a drug screening that will include a screening for tobacco use.”

A man in sunglasses smoking a cigarette

A man in sunglasses smoking a cigarette

It’s nothing new for Georgia Power, which adopted the policy in March 2009.

Every job listing includes this note: “Subject to the Georgia Power Company Smoke Free Workplace Policy: You must be free from all tobacco products (including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chew, snuff, patch and/or gum), at least six months prior to applying for this position.”

“It’s really just a way to keep the costs down,” Williams said. “The healthcare costs associated with people who smoke are higher than people who don’t. So this is a way to try to manage that cost for everybody.”

Georgia Power is not alone. It’s becoming the new standard in the healthcare industry.

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, DeKalb Medical Center and Gwinnett Medical Center all have the same rules for new employees.

It was big news in Texas last week when one of the largest employers in the state, Baylor Healthcare System, announced it would stop hiring people who smoke starting next year.

“Employers can discriminate against you based on your smoking habits,” said attorney Clint David. “Smokers are not a legally protected class, like race or religion. So employers can absolutely base their hiring decisions on whether or not people smoke, and it’s absolutely legal.”

At Georgia Power, if you apply for a position and you smoke, that does not disqualify you forever. If you quit, you can re-apply six months later.

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