SAN ANTONIO -

Smokers need not apply with the Baptist Health System. As of last August, it became the first hospital system in San Antonio to have a nicotine-free hiring policy.

“As a leader in health care in San Antonio, we want to build a healthy workforce,” said Ashley Cardenas, its spokeswoman. “We want to join other companies around the country in taking a stronger stand against this deadly addiction.”

Cardenas said tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of disease and death in the country.

She said applicants who have been offered positions, must be tested for nicotine within 72 hours, as a condition of their employment.

“We no longer hire employees who test positive for nicotine,” Cardenas said.

She said current employees are not affected by the new policy, but they are offered free, voluntary smoking cessation classes.

They also must smoke off-site since the Baptist Health System campuses have been smoke-free since 2010.

“As health care providers, we need to set an example,” Cardenas said.

However, smokers like Sam Mandelbaum said, “Any time a large institution that’s hiring people says we’re not going to hire these people, that’s dangerous.”

Yet Candid Johnson said smokers such as herself must know it is up to private employers determine their own policies.

Johnson said at the restaurant where she works, employees who smoke must keep a certain distance from patrons, and even wash their hands after their smoke break.

“Jobs are kind of hard to come by and that’s just the way it is,” Johnson said. “Sometimes you just got to let go of something in order to gain something.

To see the full smoking policy from Baptist Health, click here.