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Hospital to Begin to Test Staff for Smoking; 1 in 10 Smokers Hide Use from Doctor

By carolyncastiglia |

smoking, lying about smoking, chronic bronchitis, smoke-free hospitals, quitting smoking

Smoking: don't do it!

Two interesting and somewhat related stories came out recently about smokers and their habits. In the first, a Pennsylvania hospital announced that it will no longer hire smokers and will begin to test its employees for nicotine use. The policy goes into effect February 1st at Geisinger Medical Center and its sister campuses in Danville. According to Geisinger, the “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre region (is) the second-worst smoking metropolitan area in the U.S., pointing to not only an increased risk for lung cancer but an elevated risk of heart disease, too.” (Danville is about 30 miles outside that region.) Scranton/Wilkes-Barre citizens consume an average of 17 cigarettes a day.

Pennsylvania is among 19 states that allow employers to screen job applicants for signs of smoking, CNN reports. Smoking has been banned on the Geisinger campus since 2007. Smoking bans in the workplace are increasingly popular, no matter the field, and employees are being encouraged by their employers to quit because it saves them in productivity and health insurance costs.

So, let’s say you’re a smoker. Are you being honest about it? Or do you hide your smoking habits from loved ones, even your doctor? A related story says that a new study shows “13 percent of smokers don’t tell their doctor that they smoke, likely because they fear the social stigma that comes with being a cigarette-smoker.” Here’s why that’s a horrible idea:

If you can’t quit for health reasons alone, you might need to quit in order to keep your job (see above). What if you need medical treatment to help you quit smoking? Not to mention the obvious fact that your doctor might not look for smoking-related illnesses in you if he/she doesn’t know you smoke. I know what it’s like to get honest about your smoking habits. For years I considered myself a social smoker, but before I quit in 2009 I was buying my own packs and smoking them within a few days. Sure, I was never a 2-pack-a-day smoker, but you don’t have to be to feel smoking’s negative effects. I have chronic bronchitis now, which was likely brought on by my own smoking as well as the second-hand smoke I was surrounded by growing up. I just read recently that chronic bronchitis is one of the main forms of COPD, the other being emphysema.

It’s clear that my bronchitis was brought on by smoking, even though I was never a heavy smoker, because my last bout with it appeared after I snuck a few cigarettes during a particularly stressful week. And that’s something us smokers have to get honest about, too: even after you quit, it’s so easy to give in to temptation. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to go the entire year without smoking a cigarette. So far, so good. But it’s only Day 10. Wish me luck!

Photo via Flickr

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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “Hospital to Begin to Test Staff for Smoking; 1 in 10 Smokers Hide Use from Doctor

  1. Shandeigh says:

    I quit smoking when I found out I pregnant and haven’t smoked since. I worry about this trend though. Yes, smoking is bad for you, but it *is* a legal activity. I support an employers right to ban smoking at work. I even support them charging them more for health insurance. But to base employment off a legal activity? That seems a little unfair… and a slippery slope to be honest. First it’s smoking… then maybe alcohol or weight. Can you imagine having weigh in’s at work monthly to make sure you haven’t surpassed some weight requirement that has nothing to do with your job? What you do on your own time within the law is your own business imo.

    1. carolyncastiglia says:

      That’s an interesting and important point, Shandeigh, and one that I think points to the fact that the govt is reticent to make tobacco illegal because of the tobacco industry lobby. So they try to stop smoking through other means. It’s kind of ridonkulous. I think even people who smoke nowadays realize that it should probably be illegal. I mean, it’s so deadly. Of course alcohol has many potential negative effects (drunk driving, liver disease, alcoholism) but there are health benefits to drinking in moderation. Smoking offers no such benefits. It only kills you.

      1. carolyncastiglia says:

        Ha – was just looking up the lung damage caused by marijuana only and found this piece just published by TIME: So, there’s your argument for legalizing pot over tobacco!

  2. DRo says:

    Actually Shandeigh’s slippery slope argument doesn’t hold, IMO. If I have to share a space with a smoker, I am subjected to the negative effects of second-hand smoke and nicotine on their clothing and skin. I am not talking about them smoking in my personal space, but simply the smoke/nicotine leftover on clothes and skin. An overweight person or alcoholic doesn’t negatively affect my health by sharing a space with me.

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