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In one Florida county, nicotine is a banned drug

By   /   September 5, 2013  /   News  /   49 Comments

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

TALLAHASSEE – Flagler County commissioners are taking a tough new stance against tobacco users looking for work – by considering nicotine a banned drug.

AP photo

TOBACCO BAN-ISHED: Beginning Oct. 1, job seekers applying to work for Flagler County will not only face termination for using tobacco products, but will be denied employment if they admit to using tobacco within one year of their application date.

Beginning Oct. 1, prospective county employees will be required to take a nicotine test in addition to pre-employment drug screening for illegal drugs.

A failed test would not only deny an otherwise qualified applicant a job, but would also prohibit employment with the county for another 12 months.

“The tobacco ban applies to anything that would produce nicotine,” said Joseph Mayer, Flagler County’s community services director. That includes cigarettes, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes, pipes and snuff.

Job applicants also must sign an affidavit stating, under penalty of perjury, that they have not used tobacco within one-year of employment.

“It’s the same thing as drug use,” Mayer said. “We have a drug-free policy where everyone is tested for drug use before they come on board, and if they start using afterwards we won’t know until either a random test or a workers’ compensation incident.”

Mayer said the county has no desire to be the “tobacco police” but testing positive for nicotine after being hired could result in termination.

The new policy is aimed at reducing health insurance costs. According to widely cited research, smokers can cost employers about $5,800 more annually than nonsmokers.

Critics of so-called tobacco lifestyle bans often cite discrimination and privacy violations. But federal law does not provide tobacco users equal protection, and Florida state law does not protect off-work tobacco use.

Other local governments have enacted similar laws, and Florida hospitals have done the same. In 1995, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that public employees have no expectation of privacy when it comes to tobacco use.

Flagler’s 635 current employees are exempt from the new tobacco policy ,which was unanimously passed by the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners on Aug. 19.

When asked if the new tobacco ban would apply to the county commissioners, Mayer responded in an email, “As such, the policy does not apply to our County Commission or those individuals who may run for office in the future.”

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William Patrick is Watchdog.org’s Florida reporter. His work has been featured by Fox News, the Drudge Report, and Townhall.com, as well as other national news and opinion websites. He’s also been cited and reposted by numerous state news organizations, including Florida Trend, Sunshine State News and the Miami Herald, and is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Florida Press Association. William’s work has impacted discussions on education, privacy, criminal justice reform, and government and corporate accountability. Prior to joining Watchdog, William worked for the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee, Fla. There, he launched a legislative news website covering state economic issues. After leaving New York City in 2010, William worked for the Florida Attorney General’s Office where he assisted state attorneys general in prosecuting Medicaid Fraud. William graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College, City University of New York. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife and three young children.

  • jim

    someone want to tell me how this is legal?

    cigs are legal to buy and use by anyone old enough and there is no side effect that would make it a danger in the work place like say drinking would

  • Austin

    UP NEXT!: TALLAHASSEE – Flagler County commissioners are taking a tough new stance against caffeine users looking for work – by considering caffeine a banned drug.

  • delrayman

    “Do as I say, not as I do” , say County Commissioners…GFYourselves
    This is Nuckin’ Futs !!!

  • Cindy

    BULL FECES. I bet obese people are still hired. Their health care costs are higher than tobacco users.

  • A. Levy

    “Political correctness is a far greater threat to our freedom and liberty than is terrorism…” — Spider

  • Janedear

    Will they go after alcohol? I NEVER IN MY LIFE EVER heard of someone smoking a cigarette and then beating their wife, or children. There is MORE DAMAGE and PAIN AND HEARTBREAK AND GRIEF done by alcohol in this country then cigarettes will EVER CAUSE.
    This outrages me. I am so sick of the hysteria. I am so sick of other’s trying to run EVERYONE ELSE’S LIVES.

    If they want to be A- h o l e s, they should go after alcohol, but they WON’T, because they are HUGE FAT HYPOCRITES.
    I am thinking of moving to Russia. There is more freedom there now.

  • Janedear

    Excellent post. I say we BOYCOTT THE UN -AMERICAN TALLAHASSEE!!

  • A. Levy

    What would these county commissioners do if someone banned Thorazine, which is obviously and badly needed in Tallahassee?

  • A. Levy

    You’re quite right Cindy, but obese people haven’t been demonized by the PC-Nazis.

  • Janedear

    I hope someone sues, and WINS, HUGE. (And I hate law suits, most of them are about greed, but once in a while it seems a law suit is needed, to give someone the slap down they so deserve).

  • Joe Mason

    Vote All Of those County Commissioners

  • Joe Mason

    Rick Scott Police State

  • EddyGiroux

    I think things are really out of hand when it comes to tobacco use, I go often to Florida in the winter…but I might consider Texas now as a snowbird from Canada. Land of the free? The US really?

  • pawanna

    Rick Scott has nothing to do with Flagler County Commissioners…. study up sheeple….

  • Old Colonel

    Are we willing to accept a ban on caffeine users too? Afterall, caffeine is a “drug” too as well as being habit-forming. This seems to me to be one of those over-reaching rules that attempt to control personal habits, more than having anything whatsoever to do with the individual’s ability to perform the job.



  • Jon

    ecigs too? ECigs are not tobacco and contain NO carcinogens like tobacco does and Nicotine does not cause cancer. but since they are too dumb to know that they just test for nicotine.

  • KaV

    I disagree with banning traditional tobacco users, but at least the county can make an argument, however specious (and however disingenuous given that they don’t apply a similar policy to obese folks), that smokers have higher health care costs.

    The problem is that the county has chosen a terrible proxy for cigarette smoking and its associated dangers. Nicotine use in and of itself is not dangerous; the danger lies in traditional nicotine delivery systems, like old fashioned cigarettes and chaw. By banning nicotine use, the county is effectively banning its employees not only from using dangerous tobacco products but also from using perfectly safe nicotine replacement therapies (e.g., e-cigs, nicotine patches, nicotine gum) that people use to STOP smoking or to otherwise mitigate the dangers (and increased associated health care costs) of traditional tobacco use. This is just silly.

  • montylc2001

    this has got to be one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of.

  • mreichard7

    Can this be legal???

  • mreichard7

    I agree.

  • mreichard7

    Term limits for all politicians. One 6-yr term is more than enough time for most of these clowns to do damage.

  • mreichard7

    Agree. My youngest daughter was killed by a drunk driver (did 3 1/2 yrs), not by her Newports

  • KaV

    And let’s not forget gay and bisexual men, who, according to the CDC, make up 2% of the population but account for 63% of new HIV cases (which is helluv expensive to treat). As an employer, I don’t like those odds.

    That’s sarcastic, by the way. Making hiring decisions on the basis of health status or lifestyle risk (ostensibly due to expected health care costs) is a slippery slope to PC-hell in which those who engage in activities frowned upon by the powers-that-be are ostracized.

    The solution is to get employers (and the gov’t for that matter) out of the insurance business altogether. As my dad is fond of saying, “He who pays the bills makes the rules….”

  • Xerxes

    Some people should read some information before they comment. This has nothing to do with Tallahassee or with Gov Rick Scott. This was a Flagler County decision.

  • Frank

    drug free work place? sorry but nicotine is not a controlled substance, are you going to test for tylenol or alcohol too? they are drugs are they not?

  • OldmanRick

    This stupidity will be stopped at the state court level since smoking is not illegal. However, what the commissioners are attempting may be.

  • LivingFree…

    The whole state of Florida is one messed up place to be avoided at ALL cost.

  • It is time for citizens of the FREE United States of America to fight back against this outrageous crossing of personal freedom. Nicotine is NOT illegal. Yet, this totalitarian county in Florida is firing and refusing to hire anyone that TESTS POSITIVE FOR NICOTINE.

  • John

    So I guess that makes McDonalds a drug store since they sell potatoes…(Which have Nicotine)

  • Debbie Guardino

    So some one who uses NRT’s long term to keep from smoking can’t get a job? They do realize that the FDA has approved these products for use after 12 weeks don’t they? Lawsuit waiting to happen,,,

  • liz

    Probably next, as long as people let the political correctness and bureaucracy continue then more rights will be taken away. I do not smoke or use nicotine but it is legal and non of their business outside the work place. But people will tolerate until Alcohol is banned.

  • liz

    You are absolutely right but because he is a Republican people will demonize him. Especially the ones who worship O’Bama.

  • liz

    Not necessarily, It could be ruled an employer’s right. It has happened before in other states where non government jobs were involved.

  • liz

    If you look at some of the things that have involved smoking, this has been coming for quite a while. Some examples: No smoking in restaurants, no smoking outside near some stores, work places, beaches, some businesses in some states say if you are caught smoking at home you can be fired. My son predicted these things when he voted NO on the first issue regarding smoking, it was on a ballot and he has never smoked. He said they are trying to chip away at our legal rights and he was right it keeps happening. It is frustrating because people just don’t want to open their eyes.

  • pawanna


  • harleyrider1989

    The tobacco ban applies to anything that would produce nicotine,” said Joseph Mayer, Flagler County’s community services director

    List of Foods That Contain Nicotine


    The food that is richest in nicotine concentration is eggplant. Eggplant contains a nicotine concentration of 100 ng/g. This vegetable is also a very good dietary source of fiber, vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and potassium. According to “The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods” by Michael T. Murray, the health benefits of eggplant consumption are directly linked to the presence of a strong antioxidant called nasunin. Nasunin protects the body against free radical damage, helps rid the body of excess iron and helps lower cholesterol levels.

    Green Tomatoes

    Green tomatoes also contain dietary nicotine. The nicotine content of green tomatoes is 42.8 ng/g. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, green tomatoes are also a good dietary source of potassium, phosphorus, vitamin C, folate and calcium. Cauliflower

    Cauliflower is another food source of nicotine. The nicotine concentration contained in cauliflower is 16.8 ng/g. According to MyHealthyFoods.com, cauliflower is also an excellent dietary source of vitamin K, vitamin C, folate and fiber. Regular consumption of cauliflower will promote some health benefits such as protection against some forms of cancer, detoxification in the body and protection against rheumatoid arthritis. Potatoes

    Another food that could expose you to nicotine is potatoes. Potatoes contain a nicotine concentration of 7.1 ng/g. According to Ayushveda.com, potatoes are also a very good dietary source of vitamin B6, vitamin A and potassium. The combination of these nutrients make the consumption of baked or boiled potatoes effective prevention against cardiovascular disease. According to the website, people who consume baked or boiled potatoes have a lower risk of heart attack and frequently have lower blood pressure than people who do not consume potatoes.

    So I guess now Employees are banned from eating too! ROFLMAO

    There are literally 100’s of foods that contain nicotine and this stupid Council hasn’t a clue to anything at all………They are literally INSANE!

  • harleyrider1989

    There are 4,000-7000 theorized chemicals in tobacco smoke (there are 2,000 in coffee) of which only 65 are vaguely carcinogenic. None exist in any quantity to cause harm. I can only assume some of the people commenting here are displaying symptoms of physcho-somaticism, it’s all the mind or fancy a fat payout from the courts.

    In 1991 an experiment was done on side stream smoke (SSS). SSS is undiluted by inhalation via a smoker’s lungs where 95% of the chemicals are ingested. The setting was a room 20 feet by 24 feet by 9 feet, sealed and unventilated and the “sniffer” was 6 inches away from the lit cigarette. It produced the following results whereby you would have to be surrounded by the following number of smokers to reach a dangerous level.

    Benzene 13,300 smokers.
    Polonium 750,000.
    Nickel 40,000.
    Acetone 178,000
    Benzo(a)pyrence 220,000.

    So you are telling me smoke travelling 10-20 feet diluted by other air is a health hazard? You remind me of alchemists of the middle ages. Benzene constitutes 3% of a gallon of gas, and is often unburned in a car engine, the by product is benzo(a)pyrene. Your car will kill far more people before a smoker.


  • OldmanRick

    Thanks for the head smack. I had not considered that.

  • Barry Heth

    Next on their agenda… Clean Air Syndrome. All prospective employees must provide receipts and proof they have taken Gas-X pills for the past 12 months straight or face banishment from the City.

  • Rebecca Anderson

    Years ago I was asked in a job interview if I smoked in which I answered honestly and was denied the job based on that answer. They honestly told me if I wasn’t a smoker I would have gotten the job and they said it had nothing to do with health issues but that they were simply against smoking and didn’t want the smell around them even though I said I didn’t need to smoke at work and wouldn’t but none the less they said the smell would still be on my clothing. This happened before smokers became publicly shunned, right before advocates against smokers began their campaign and it’s only gotten worse. I think it’s ridiculous and it actually made me feel ashamed at that time for having the habit, I’m over it now of course. This is just one more step in taking an individuals right to freedom away,imo. I really feel we have bigger issues in America to deal with than worrying about a person’s choice to smoke cigarettes. I wonder when the smoking police will appear and start arresting people for smoking…lol…probably not to far off although the government is making a lot of money off the taxes on cigarettes. That is the only reason I would like to quit is because I could use the money on something else but as anyone knows quitting smoking is a hard habit to break.

  • Greg Streuber


  • E-cigs are not tobacco and as some have pointed out, some foods have nicotine too. I happen to love tomatoes and eat a lot of them, but what I want to know is, how is it affecting anyone, but the individual, if they smoke at home and not at work? It makes no sense to banned nicotine use, when it is a legal substance and can be used in the privacy of one’s own home or car. Not only that, if they vape an e-cig, it doesn’t smell like tobacco, so no one is going to smell it on the person’s clothes or breath. Thus, if the person doesn’t smell like tobacco, what is it of anyone else’s business if a person uses an e-cig, eat tomatoes, or smokes in the privacy of their own homes? One whole beef steak tomato, which I’ve been known to eat in one setting, could theoretically cause one to test positive for nicotine. This is really stupid and really proverbially ticks me off.

  • Rita

    Will the nicotine ban also apply to welfare recipients?

  • Tera Hamby

    Awesome! Smoking should only be allowed in your home if you don’t have pets or kids.

  • I don’t think you realize that if they are testing only for nicotine, that the first time you eat eggplants or tomatioes, they are going to kick you out of the running too. I’d read the article again, because they are testing for nicotine, which is found in some foods such as tomatoes.


  • Wendy Smith

    That’s disgusting. Tobacco growing has long been a piece of Americana, and helped support our independence and our nation.

  • Parmenion59

    I wonder if any of these fascists take the vitamin B3 tablets?

    Of all the disinformation out there, probably the most skilfully done is the origins of niacin. That is the B vitamin known as B3. Niacin is Nicotinic Acid or nicotine.

    The benefit of nicotinic acid is essential for the normal function of the nervous system and the gastrointestinal tract. Without nicotinic acid, our food isn’t processed properly and we don’t get the vitamins we need. Worst case scenario equals death at an early age.

    Niacin is of major benefit to the body and needed for all kinds of systems to function properly. But, they didn’t want you to associate it with smoking and so they changed the name from nicotinic acid to niacin.

    The easiest and most efficient way of oxidizing nicotinic acid is to burn it, hence, smoking is a great way to get your vitamin B3. Knowing the benefits of this “vitamin” it is easy to see why smokers enjoy smoking so much and anti-tobacco is so intent on you not knowing its origins.

    Are you starting to see the lies here or, more accurately, disinformation? If it is ok to take a vitamin, but not ok to smoke because of nicotine, yet vitamin niacin is nicotine, what then are we to believe from the experts?