General Question

seekingwolf's avatar

Do employers test for nicotine?

Asked by seekingwolf (9747 points ) March 5th, 2011

Okay, so I have a secret vice that no one really knows about…
I like cigars once in a while.

I know, I know, it’s terrible. All my friends think they are disgusting and if they were going to smoke, it would be cigarettes (EW!). But hey, I know what I enjoy.

About 2x a month, I get one high quality expensive cigar, light up, and enjoy it on an evening outside, usually when I walk. I love the taste and smell, and it’s quite relaxing. It’s fun to do with a good friend too. Then I go take a quick shower and no one knows the difference.

The last time I smoked one, it was about 2 weeks ago, on a weekend.

Now, my concern is, what about drug tests? I have done urine drug tests before. I am going to apply for a few jobs in the summer (all minimum-wage, cashier-type jobs). I know I have a good shot because there are a bunch and I’m applying a bit early. I believe at the one place, they test both urine/hair.

Obviously illegal drugs would be out (I haven’t done any of those ever) but do jobs turn down people for nicotine? I would put down that I am a “social smoker” if they asked – I don’t lie. I just don’t know what the answer is here. I am 21, so it’s not illegal for me, it’s a simple cashier job, etc.

I don’t know if they test for nicotine AT ALL or if they do, do they just not care, because I’m over 18 and it’s a legal drug?

EDIT: BTW, let’s please not make this about how cigars are bad. I don’t want to hear about lung cancer…I’m aware it happens with what I’m doing. I’m not “addicted” and my frequency in smoking hasn’t increased in many months. It’s something that I enjoy that comes with a risk, as does alcohol and fatty foods for other people.

I just want to know about the drug test.

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31 Answers

optimisticpessimist's avatar

I have never heard of anyone testing for nicotine. It is not illegal so I doubt it. Sorry, I cannot be more specific. I am a smoker and have never been tested for nicotine.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

Nope, you don’t have anything to worry about man.

Bellatrix's avatar

Nicotine isn’t an illegal drug where I am so there would be no reason to test for it.

seekingwolf's avatar

Thanks to those who have answered. :) I hope I have nothing to worry about.

I have heard of schools (like, high schools) using drug tests to bust people with cigarettes. But many times, those kids are underage and they are concerned with usage on school grounds, which is illegal.

I know that’s not my case here but I’m still worrying. I started enjoying cigars when I was 20 at college. I don’t intend to stop.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Alcohol isn’t illegal, but if you test positive at work you get canned. More to the point is that millions of Americans smoke and go to work, and take smoke breaks. It’s not something that drastically hurts performance. In fact, for habitual smokers it maintains performance. So no, employers don’t test for it.

cheebdragon's avatar

How old are you?

Why would they test for something that is sold in almost every grocery store in the world…..that’s like testing for twinkies and ho ho’s.

seekingwolf's avatar

@incendiary_dan

Thanks! Yeah, not too worried about alcohol. I consume alcohol about the same as I do cigars (2x a month) and I know that it leaves your system quickly. I would probably cease drinking for 1–2 weeks prior to applying and getting a drug test, just to be safe.

@cheebdragon

I’m 21 years old.

jerv's avatar

While I have yet to hear of any employer actually testing for nicotine, I know of a few that say, “Smokers need not apply”. Not only do they not allow smoking on their premises, they don’t even want a person who smokes on their payroll! Yes, Seattle is a screwy place.

That said, testing is expensive, and nicotine is minor enough that I doubt any employer would cough up the dough to run that test.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah I guess it depends where you are. I’m in a more rural area and quite a few people here still smoke. I guess it depends where you are.

I think I’ll probably be okay. If I had to for something, I’d give up cigars but I don’t really want to. I enjoy them.

janbb's avatar

I have just recently heard of hospitals that will not hire smokers at all, but that is the only instance where I have heard of just being a smoker – as opposed to smoking at work – being an issue. You should be fine.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah I’ve heard of that too. I know the hospitals in my area hire smokers so I guess it varies.

Oh well I’m not going for a hospital job so i’m not too worried.

Bellatrix's avatar

Good point and I stand corrected. @incendiary_dan

blueiiznh's avatar

they test for illegal substances.
I have friends who work for the airlines and are constantly random tested. Nicotine will not give a false positive for anything illegal.
Last time i knew, nicotine was not illegal and it would be against civil right to not hire due to it.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

Employers are motivated by a number of factors, including rising health care costs, pressure to increase productivity, and resentment of smokers by non-smokers arising from perceptions that smokers take more frequent breaks, and increase the health care cost burden on non-smokers to eliminate smoking in their employees. As long ago as 1974, Dow Chemical Company found that cigarette smoking employees were missing 5.5 more work days per year than their nonsmoking peers. Also, in all states except Montana, “employment at-will” policies give employers ample latitude to make decisions affecting employees. For these reasons, employers are becoming increasingly aggressive about eliminating smoking in the workplace, not only by imposing on-the-job bans, but also by adopting policies that address employees’ off-the-job behavior.

For example:

** In early 2003, Weyco Inc., a medical benefits administrator in Okemos, MI, quit hiring tobacco users; by the fall of that year, it had forbidden the staff from smoking on the premises. Starting in 2004, it added a tobacco “assessment” of $50 a month per worker who smoked and didn’t go to a cessation class. Finally, Weyco gave its employees a 15-month advance notice that those who still smoked on or off the company’s watch by January 2005 would be terminated.
** Kimball Physics, a manufacturer of scientific instruments in Wilton, NH, has banned all use and possession of tobacco in company buildings and prohibits “tobacco-residuals emitting persons”—defined as anyone who has used a tobacco product within the previous two hours—from entering its workplace.
** Westgate Resorts, the largest private employer in Central Florida, has banned smoking and won’t budge from a policy of not hiring smokers and firing employees who do smoke. Westgate president and CEO David Seigel in 2007 notably stated, “Anything we can do that is legal and not discriminatory, we will do. If you are an alcoholic and we have the right to fire you, we will do so. And if you are obese and there is a way for us not to hire you or to fire you, we will do that, too.”
** A growing number of employers are imposing higher premiums for smokers or offering incentives for cessation.

Obviously, many employers still hire smokers. However, with the previously stated and the 38 states with smoking bans already, it seems that things are heading that direction.

Information gleaned from the following:
http://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/smoking-legal.htm
http://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Performance-Termination/Smoking-Workplace/Employer-on-Good-Footing-with-Smoking-Ban-Experts-/
http://ash.org/papers/h100.htm
http://www.clickorlando.com/money/14537611/detail.html
http://mjperry.blogspot.com/2009/12/michigan-daily-governor-jennifer_18.html

seekingwolf's avatar

Well, I understand that many high-profile healthcare companies and the like won’t hire smokers because of the cost to their benefit programs and health insurance for the employers.

But how does this apply to me? I mentioned the sort of job I’m looking for – summer job at an entry-level, minimum-wage thing, part time. I’m not looking into those big companies. I want to know what REGULAR old places with the jobs I’m looking at would do in terms of nicotine detection.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

This likely won’t directly affect you. Most smaller companies, especially with the economic crunch of the last few years and their smaller operating budgets in the first place, will not test at all, let alone test for nicotine. Blood, urine, and hair testing is still most often left for instances where a worker’s competence and sobriety is in question, either by implication or an accident or incident in the workplace. I would not worry about it too much. I was only pointing out that it does directly affect some people and will likely directly affect even more as time rolls on.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah I have no doubt that you’re right on that – society is becoming less and less tolerant of smokers. You are definitely right on that.

I think I’ll be okay for now. If I ever work for a company that bans nicotine I will (SADLY) give up cigars if they do random drug tests.

gondwanalon's avatar

I heard on the radio a couple of days ago that the “Franciscan Health Care System” no longer hires people who use nicotine and they will test employees for nicotine. It must be true since I heard it on the radio.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah I have no doubt. I hear that many healthcare places won’t nicotine users.

Honestly, I can see why, if you’re paying for people’s benefits and you want them to be healthy so you can save money. In that case yeah, I can DEFINITELY see why they would opt to do that.

However, for a simple cashier job that I’m looking for part time without benefits, I think they should stay out of my business when it comes to legal drugs. It’s not like it harms them or costs them money down the road when/if I get lung cancer.

jerv's avatar

@seekingwolf I have to look for it, but I saw somewhere that smokers will be extinct by 2050, at least in America.

seekingwolf's avatar

2050? That’s in my lifetime, haha.

We’ll have to see….

jerv's avatar

Cars cause more issues, but cars are considered necessary while nicotine use is considered purely elective. That is why smoking is more restricted than driving.

john65pennington's avatar

Even if you were tested and failed a nicotine test, it could not be held against you.

Smoking cigars and cigarettes is not a law violation.

The only exception to this scenerio is if an employer asked you to sign a paper, stating that you would not smoke or use any form of tobacco, while employed at his business. Even at this, I doubt it would hold in court, since smoking cigars and cigarettes is not illegal.

jerv's avatar

@john65pennington Sadly, many states are “work at will” and thus don’t even need a reason to terminate your employment or refuse to hire you. Even if they do, they are creative about circumventing them.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

No one tests for nicotine. Besides, smoking isn’t illegal. If you are not smoking on your employer’s property, then it’s none of his business.

jerv's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Many employers make it their business though :/

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@jerv If you aren’t smoking on their property, how would they ever know?

I did find on-line that more than half the states have laws that do prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee based on off-duty legal behaviors. Smoking, of course, is legal.

According to the same web page, testing for nicotine use IS illegal.

This web page was actually for employers who want to implement a ban on off-duty smoking.

jerv's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt The difference between what is legal and what is reality is why we have law enforcement and courts.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@jerv I agree, if your answer is implying that those who are discriminated against in this way should take it to court. Apparently, according to the web site I was reading, employers think they have the right because of company medical insurance costs. Since more people die or get sick from obesity, do these companies pick on their overweight employees? NO. It makes me so mad!

jerv's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt Too bad many states are “work at will” states where they don’t need a reason to fire you :/

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@jerv I keep hearing on the news that my state is a “right to work” state. Do you have any idea what that means? Of course, it is true that you can be fired at any time no matter what the law is, because no employer is going to be stupid enough to give a reason that could get them sued. They can always just say that they aren’t happy with your performance and leave it at that.

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