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PM@Work: Toward a Tobacco Free Future

Recently, UPHS announced that, effective July 1, 2013, we will cease hiring tobacco users in our efforts to improve the overall health of our workforce while reducing health-care benefit costs.  The response we’ve gotten from employees and from our community has been very positive.  For current employees, UPHS will continue to provide free smoking cessation counseling and nicotine replacement therapy to support our staff and their families in eliminating the use of tobacco products. 

We know that employees might have questions about how this new policy affects them.  Below are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).  For a larger list of FAQ -- which includes additional details on how this policy affects those applying for positions at UPHS -- visit .

If you have additional questions that are not included in the FAQ below or online, email them to 


How Does the Tobacco Free Policy Affect Current Employees?


Will the Tobacco Free Hiring policy impact current UPHS employees?

No. Current employees will be grandfathered --- but employees who are tobacco users can expect to pay a higher premium on their health-care benefit if they are not actively enrolled in a smoking cessation program or nicotine replacement therapy.


Who does this policy apply to?

This policy applies to all UPHS employees, inclusive of physicians employed by the Health System, who begin employment on or after July 1, 2013.  Due to the lengthy recruitment cycle of fellows and residents, the effective date for this policy is July 1, 2014, providing a full year notification to applicants.   This policy does not apply to faculty and staff employed by the University or UPHS employees working exclusively in New Jersey.  


Why the focus on tobacco users?

The health risks and related costs associated with tobacco use have caused UPHS to mobilize action for moving toward a tobacco free future by focusing on the health of its workforce while containing the escalating costs associated with tobacco use.   The Center for Disease Control (CDC) provides evidence that smoking or second-hand smoke exposure contributes to 443,000 premature deaths annually and results in $193 billion in health-care costs and lost productivity.


Is there documented evidence that ‘banning the hiring of tobacco users’ reduces overall health care costs

No longitudinal study provides demonstrable evidence that employers who cease hiring tobacco users reduce overall health-care costs.   This is largely due to the fact, that this type of employment practice has only been initiated in the past few years.  One of the first to introduce the ‘tobacco free hiring’ policy was the Cleveland Clinic in 2007; the practice has contributed to an overall reduction in smoking rates in Cuyahoga County.   Many others have followed since then, including Geisinger Health Care System, St. Luke’s, Baylor Health Care System, Humana, Massachusetts Hospital Association and many others throughout the country.


Inherent in the mission of health-care organizations is healing the sick and cultivating healthier communities.    So it does make sense that health-care organizations would be the first employers to move toward a tobacco free future — ending a habit that leads to disease, disability and premature death.   


 If a current employee terminates employment with UPHS and then re-applies, will they be subject to the new policy?



Will physicians be subject to the tobacco free hiring policy?

All physicians who are employed by UPHS are subject to this policy — including residents, fellows and most CCA physicians.   Faculty and staff who are employed by the University are not subject to this policy. Due to the recruitment cycle of residents and fellows the effective date for policy implementation for this group of employees is July 1, 2014.


Will residents of communities who have higher smoking rates be adversely impacted by this policy?

Even surrounding communities that have a relatively high usage of tobacco products have far more non-tobacco users than tobacco users.    We also are continuing our efforts to increase education on the impact of tobacco use in those communities with higher usage rates.  The implementation of this policy does not adversely impact our recruitment efforts.   


We are committed to enforcing this policy while ensuring that our hiring rate in these communities does not decrease.  


What future bans will UPHS consider next?

The University of Pennsylvania Health System is committed to a safe and healthy work environment and to promoting the health and wellbeing of its employees. Other than requiring future applicants to attest to not being a tobacco user, there are no specific plans to restrict employment for other conditions.


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