Pima County Proposes Not Hiring Smokers

August 01, 2014

Pima County is saying it will no longer hire smokers for county jobs. It has proposed a new regulation that would prohibit hiring anyone who smokes.

Smokers have much higher healthcare costs and lower productivity than their non-smoking counterparts. The CDC estimates these two issues cost their employers almost $3,500 a year.

Allyn Bulzomi with Pima County says those estimates are conservative. To reverse costs, the county would also raise rates for current employees who do smoke. 

"Under the Affordable Care Act we are allowed to charge smokers more for their premiums than non-smokers," Bulzomi said. "The proposal calls for doing that at increments starting with 30 percent, going to 40 percent the following year and 50 percent the year after that.

Here in Maricopa County, there is not a rule that prohibits new hires from smoking, or penalizes current employees who do. But instead the county offers  financial incentives to non-smokers and those who are trying to quit.

Unless employees choose to opt in to credits toward healthcare, insurance rates are the same for all employees.