(ABC – Dallas-Fort Worth)
City employees who take a smoke break are fuming over a new idea to make Fort Worth a tobacco-free work place by not hiring smokers.
“I think it’s an infringement on the public’s rights to live their life the way they choose to,” said Vince Chasteen, president of the city’s employee association. Chasteen has worked for the city for 30 years; he’s smoked for 41.
He said he understands the need to lower health care costs, but thinks employees should always have a choice.
“I feel like the next thing they want to do is take DNA samples to figure out if anybody is going to have any kind of diseases going forward,” Chasteen said.
Mayor Betsy Price has made it her mission to make Fort Worth a healthier city. She was out of town Monday, and unavailable for comment.
But in an informal report expected to be delivered during Tuesday’s pre-Council meeting, the mayor said Fort Worth’s human resources department is examining hiring policies as part of its overall health care strategy.
The city is looking at private business models, which include Baylor Healthcare System. It stopped hiring smokers as of January 1.
The hospital also offers programs for current employees and their spouses to stop smoking. President Steve Newton said every dollar Baylor spends on wellness saves the company $2.44.
“It certainly helps to promote health in our communities,” Newton says. “It also helps in the bottom line. We spend less money on our health care, and we end up with a healthier work force.”
Quitman Stephens with Cantey Hanger helps companies institute wellness programs as part of their health care coverage. He said banning tobacco and tobacco users is a growing trend.