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Today’s labor market is competitive, and employers are constantly looking for ways to differentiate potential employees who may otherwise be practically identical. These tactics range from test questions to personality quizzes, but some companies are taking things a step further and asking future hires to take a nicotine test. Hospitals, transportation companies and utility services are leading the way in testing employees’ saliva for tobacco and tobacco-product use, and other substances to help make hiring decisions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. It costs the nation billions in health care expenses, and smokers are expected to die about 10 years earlier than nonsmokers. There isn’t an organ in the body that smoking doesn’t damage in some way. Despite this, many choose to continue smoking. Public health experts are beginning to feel that if a person’s health isn’t enough to motivate them to quit, maybe they can be incentivized by money. For workers everywhere, the penalties for not quitting, and the rewards for quitting, could soon be hitting you in the wallet.

Many employers, faced with rising health insurance costs for smokers and the higher rates of chronic diseases in employees who smoke, are offering carrot-stick bargains — either quit smoking and receive a small bonus and free smoking cessation tools, or continue smoking and lose a small percentage of your paycheck each month; or in some cases, lose out on the job offer. Being tobacco-free makes a job applicant a more natural choice for an employer trying to save money on insurance costs and promote a healthy office environment.

Testing for illegal drugs has been a pretty widespread practice for years, but with the relative ease of oral fluid testing, employers can now ask a candidate for a swab and know whether the applicant smokes, dips or chews. The payout for the employer can be twofold: they can offer new potential employees smoking cessation tools to help them get healthy, and they can potentially receive a federal insurance subsidy for testing their employees. It’s been demonstrated time and again that the healthier the workforce, the more productive it is, so having a group of employees who are entirely tobacco-free could increase productivity dramatically, while reducing insurance costs.

The oral swab test, or even a urine specimen test, offered by Any Lab Test Now identifies the amount of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, in the bloodstream. This substance sticks around for an average of three days — longer in heavy smokers — so going cold turkey for the day isn’t going to cut it. By offering a quick, inexpensive way to test for cotinine, Any Lab Test Now is making it easier for employers to make hiring decisions based on important health criteria. Companies now realize that an investment in the health of each employee is an investment in the business itself, and the advantages of nicotine testing far outweigh the costs.

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