ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A tough new anti-smoking law goes into effect at a major local hospital. From now on, employees who want to work at Anne Arundel Medical Center will have to pass a test to prove they’re nicotine-free.

Christie Ileto has more on the surprisingly tough move.

The controversial hiring policy is legal and gaining popularity across Maryland and the country.

Smokers aren’t wanted. It’s the new hiring policy for Anne Arundel County Medical Center—which also includes all nicotine products.

“We’re not limiting people’s rights to smoke; they can choose to smoke if they want. We’re just saying we’re not going to hire you if you use cigarette products,” said Stephen Cattaneo, Anne Arundel Medical Center. “Everyone’s going to have their point of view.”

The hospital announced its plan last year. It might be controversial but it’s legal in Maryland.

Nearly 18 out of every hundred people smoke.

The hospital’s been smoke-free since 2007 but became tobacco-free last July to include chewing tobacco and e-cigarettes.

“I was frightened, thinking, `How am I going to get through my work day not taking a smoke break?'” Michelle Preissler said.

An employee for 32 years, Preissler is excluded from the new policy but is working to kick her habit.

“This is a good thing, the non-smoking policy,” she said. “It’s a good wakeup call.”

But not everyone is on board.

“It should be your choice. It’s a freedom we should have,” one said.

Applicants now are tested for nicotine as part of routine drug tests to make sure they’re setting a good example for those they treat. Applicants who fail the test can reapply again for testing six months later.

Carroll Hospital in Westminister and UMD Upper Chesapeake Health in Harford County also have nicotine-free hiring policies.

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