Friday, at a Conference on Smoking Cessation in Ottawa, healthcare professionals held a debate over whether smokers should be hired to work in a healthcare setting.

Dr. Andrew Pipe from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute was the moderator at the debate. Dr. Pipe said while this debate was being done as an informative piece, many leading health care centres in the United States have already introduced such policies.

“Leading health care institutions want to demonstrate best possible practice in the degree to which a hospital or health care facility can exemplify, can be exemplary to the community,” he said.

Dr. Pipe said some of the top arguments against hiring smokers include patients complaining about the smell of tobacco on care workers, lost productivity from time spent on smoke breaks, as well as higher insurance costs for health care facilities.

Dr. Bill Evans from the Department of Oncology at McMaster University was asked to debate on behalf of smokers.

Dr. Evans argued that good staff should not be blacklisted for personal choices.

“Filling up all the different disciplines that are required in a hospital or cancer centre is a challenge, I’ve done it for a lot of years, and I’m not going to discriminate against people who smoke versus people who don’t smoke,” he said.

In Ontario, smoking in permitted on hospital grounds, so long as it is in a designated smoking area which is marked by signs, and must be nine metres away from any entrance or exit.

Come January 2018 all hospital property will be completely smoke free.

The University of Ottawa Heart Institute’s 8th Annual Ottawa Conference: State of the Art Clinical Approaches to Smoking Cessation runs on January 22nd and 23rd, 2016 at the Westin Hotel located downtown Ottawa, Canada.