AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Starting February 1, U-Haul will begin testing applicants for usage of nicotine and no longer hire employees who are nicotine users.
Testing for nicotine is only legal in 21 states, Texas being one of them.
This includes all aspects of nicotine, such as smoking, vaping and chewing tobacco.
“Most businesses don’t want to get involved in their employees off duty conduct. They will regulate the conduct that occurs in the work place, and almost all of the employers that I work with have no smoking policies within the work place, but they’re not going to worry about what somebody’s doing on their own time,” said Vicki Wilmarth, employment law attorney.
The reason for the new policy is to create a culture of wellness throughout the company, according to U-Haul.
A nationally certified tobacco treatment specialist says smoking impacts your immune system, and people who smoke are more likely to get sick.
“A lot of companies are leaning towards it because their employees are sick half as often if they don’t smoke, so healthier employees, less sick time away,” said Chrissy Acker, a nationally certified tobacco treatment specialist.
Where declining people who use nicotine isn't unheard of, a company as large as U-Haul and in the same field has never implemented a policy such as this.
“There are other ways to handle it, for example Amarillo ISD gives you a discount on your health insurance premium if you’re a non-smoker and they will test for nicotine in order to give you that discount. So AISD is using a carrot, not a stick. U-Haul’s using a stick,” said Wilmarth.
Health care professionals say from a medical stance, U-Haul’s new policy is most likely the first of many to come.
“I believe it is a trend, nationally it is a trend, but you have to have help for people who are smokers to help them quit,” said Acker.
Acker says there are multiple resources and medication available through Tobacco Free Amarillo to help quit smoking.