Florida County requires potential employees to pass nicotine test

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One county in Florida is requiring job applicants to pass a nicotine test before becoming an employee.

The Board of County Commissioners in Flagler County passed a vote in August of 2013 that requires anyone who applies for a county job to undergo testing for nicotine use, according to a report by ABC News. Potential employees must also pledge that they will not use tobacco during their employment.

ABC News reported that civil liberties groups have deemed the testing unconstitutional; they are concerned that it may violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Baylor Johnson, a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“The government can’t randomly drug test entire sections of the population, whether that’s state employees or people receiving government benefits, without suspicion of wrongdoing,” Johnson said.

ABC reported that Nate McLaughlin, board chairman, said rising health insurance costs and the health-conscious outlook of Flagler County prompted the testing. Flagler County employees have weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs available to them, as well as a nutritionist and an exercise physiologist.

A study by Ohio State University found that employees who smoke cost their employers an average of about $5,800 more than a non-smoker. The study drew from research on productivity, smoke breaks, and health care costs, according to the study.

“At the end of the day, for the taxpayers, it’s a smart business decision,” said McLaughlin.

Testing for applicants would begin on October 1 and would be part of the urine drug screening that is already in place, said ABC News. Applicants who test positive for nicotine would not be considered for employment for one year. Employees who violate the policy could face termination of employment.