Gwinnett hospital won't hire smokers

Smokers need not apply.

That's the message from Gwinnett Medical Center, which has instituted a hospital policy prohibiting the hiring of smokers.

The new policy does not affect existing employees, but hospital officials said they plan to crack down harder on employees who violate the existing no smoking policy on hospital grounds.

Failing to heed multiple warnings could lead employees to lose their jobs, spokeswoman Andrea Wehrmann said.

Gwinnett Medical Center's hiring ban on smokers demonstrates the hospital's commitment to good health, officials said.

"By not hiring people that use tobacco products and helping current employees to quit, we are trying to lead by example," said Steve Nadeau, vice president for human resources.

The policy was put in place July 1, but it was unclear whether it affected tobacco chewers, Wehrmann said. The medical center's employment application asks job candidates only whether they smoke.

Some people might consider the hiring policy discriminatory, but it falls within the law, said Benita Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, a nonprofit policy group.

"Private companies can do what they want with employees, within the law," she said. "I don't see any legal challenge."