Newswise — In an effort to combat lung cancer and other serious diseases, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center will adopt a tobacco-free hiring policy beginning, Jan. 1, 2015.
Under the new policy, all MD Anderson applicants will be screened for tobacco use as part of the standard application process. Job seekers who test positive will not be eligible for immediate employment. However, if the applicant remains interested in working at MD Anderson, they will be given tobacco-cessation materials and instructions for obtaining assistance. Applicants will then be permitted to apply for open positions and undergo a new screening test following a waiting period of 180 days.
The new policy will affect all potential executives, faculty and staff interested in joining the cancer center. It does not impact those employed by MD Anderson prior to 2015.
“As an institution with the mission of ending cancer, we felt those who wish to work at MD Anderson must be willing to make a personal commitment to help reduce cancer rates,” said Shibu Varghese, vice president of Human Resources. “Because secondhand smoke also has been linked to cancer, it’s also a commitment on behalf of our employees to the entire community.”
MD Anderson’s no-smoking policy is part of a larger initiative, the EndTobacco program, developed to tackle the epidemic of diseases linked to tobacco use, a problem that continues to plague the United States. EndTobacco is a science-based program based on best practices for tobacco control recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. The need for expanded efforts to combat tobacco use is clear. Tobacco-related diseases are the leading cause of preventable deaths in America, contributing to more than 480,000 deaths annually.
EndTobacco is being launched within the cancer prevention and control platform, part of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program. The program is an effort to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical and population-oriented advances that significantly reduce cancer deaths.
“If we want to make a serious impact on smoking and tobacco use, we must continue to lead by example and create a healthy environment internally for patients, visitors, faculty and staff,” said Ernest Hawk, M.D., M.P.H., vice president and division head of MD Anderson’s Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences and co- leader of the cancer prevention and control platform.
A tobacco focused agenda
Over the years, MD Anderson has made many strides to control tobacco use through research, programs, clinical trials, collaborations and cessation services. In 1989, the institution’s campus became smoke-free. Five years later, MD Anderson became one of the few U.S. academic medical institutions to adopt a policy prohibiting the receipt of tobacco money for research funding.
MD Anderson’s Tobacco Treatment Program provides tobacco-cessation services to patients, employees and their families at no cost to help offer an alternative to tobacco use. The program, supported by Tobacco Settlement Funds, includes in-person behavioral counseling and several tobacco-cessation medication treatments.
“Our institution has worked to eliminate tobacco use for a long time at the local, state and national level,” said Mark Moreno, vice president of Government Relations and co-leader of the cancer prevention and control platform at MD Anderson. “This is another opportunity to assure that our internal processes support our overarching mission of eliminating cancer through both preventive and therapeutic means.”