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New Smoking Battle

Houston hospital refuses to hire smokers: Job applicants to be tested for tobacco in their system

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In an effort to fight lung cancer and related diseases, MD Anderson is imposing a no-smoking policy and will screen job applicants beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Courtesy credit
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MD Anderson Cancer Center is hoping to prevent the 480,000 tobacco-related deaths which occur each year. Courtesy of M.D. Anderson
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News-MD Anderson Cancer Center
M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Get Directions - 1515 Holcombe Blvd. Houston

In an effort to fight lung cancer and other tobacco-related diseases, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center is adopting a tobacco-free hiring policy effective Jan. 1.

The new policy states that all M.D. Anderson applicants will be screened for tobacco use and those testing positive will not be eligible for immediate employment. If the applicant is still interested in working at M.D. Anderson, however, they will be given "tobacco-cessation materials and instructions for obtaining assistance," as detailed by the hospital.

 "Those who wish to work at M.D. Anderson must be willing to make a personal commitment to help reduce cancer rates." 

All potential executives, faculty and staff interested in joining the cancer center will be subject to the new policy's rules, although those employed prior to 2015 will not be affected.

"As an institution with the mission of ending cancer, we felt those who wish to work at M.D. Anderson must be willing to make a personal commitment to help reduce cancer rates," says Shibu Varghese, the hospital's vice president for Human Resources. "Because secondhand smoke also has been linked to cancer, it's also a commitment on behalf of our employees to the entire community."

M.D. Anderson's new policy is part of a larger initiative, the EndTobacco program, developed to fight the many diseases linked to tobacco use. The program is science-based and built on practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Tobacco-related diseases are the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States — accounting for more than 480,000 deaths annually .

"If we want to make a serious impact on smoking and tobacco use, we must continue to lead by example and create a healthy environment internally for patients, visitors, faculty and staff," says Ernest Hawk, vice president and division head of M.D. Anderson's Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences and co-leader of the cancer prevention and control platform.

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