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Readers And Tweeters Fired Up Over Employer’s No-Nicotine Policy

Letters to the Editor is a periodic feature. We welcome all comments and will publish a selection. We edit for length and clarity and require full names.

On Board With Snubbing Smokers?

Regarding U-Haul, good for them (“Smokers Need Not Apply: Fairness Of No-Nicotine Hiring Policies Questioned,” Jan. 13). I don’t like being around smokers. I have asthma, and the smoke also gives me a headache. I would like to see stronger efforts to get people to quit. I realize that poor people are more likely to smoke and will sometimes tell them, “You can’t afford the effects of your habit.” I also nag people smoking around me until they stop or go away.

— Therese Shellabarger, North Hollywood, California

— Matt Neumann, LaGrange, Ohio

From my observations working in the insurance industry for 30 years, smokers are less productive workers. Low-level employees sometimes used their breaks — including bathroom and lunch breaks — to smoke. Salaried employees took more than the authorized number of breaks whenever they felt the urge to smoke, reasoning that as long as they got their work done, they didn’t have to abide by the rule hourly employees adhered to.

Co-workers who smoked often seemed less attentive to detail and couldn’t cope with work stress as well as nonsmokers. Their preoccupation with when they could go outside and smoke a cigarette took priority over work, and it often took longer for them to get their work done. Employees were offered free smoking-cessation programs, but few succeeded in quitting the habit.

If employees drank alcohol on the job during their breaks, they would get fired. With marijuana legalization, are companies going to treat marijuana smokers the same as cigarette smokers? Of course not.

Smoking is bad for our health, and that’s a fact. It’s not discrimination to not hire smokers, and vaping should be included in the smoking category. Many employers do drug testing occasionally to make sure their employees are not smoking weed or other illicit drugs, and they could be terminated if the drug test is positive.

Sure, some people might ask: What about employees who refuse to eat well to lose weight and prevent diabetes? Employers cannot control their employees’ diet habits or smoking or drug use habits. I can see why smokers cried foul that U-Haul refused to hire smokers.

The other thing is, cigarettes are so expensive to buy. Why do low-income people continue to smoke? Because it’s addictive, and they can’t quit. So they’d rather starve or skimp on medication than quit smoking — whether cigarettes or vaping or marijuana.

If all employers started to set standards about hiring, perhaps more people would work harder to quit the nasty habits that will kill them and affect the people around them. Our society respects democracy and personal freedom, but we are paying for it in health costs.

— Lena Conway, Naperville, Illinois

Playing Catch-Up On Healthy Living

I find it most amusing that articles such as “Extending ‘Healthspan’: Brain Scientists Tap Into The Secrets Of Living Well Longer” (Jan. 2) are — over the past 18 months — in the news regularly. More than three decades ago, when I was a chiropractic student, exercise and healthy eating — wellness and well-being — were promoted and taught. However, it not being from the God-Almighty, know-all “medical” profession, it was ignored or even dismissed.

Amusing. Most amusing. At least for a wellness-based chiropractor with 30 years in practice and certified with the Athletic and Fitness Association of America, practicing for 23 years, who has walked the talk of healthy living since learning about it in chiropractic school. Especially as I watch those in my age (59) group who have until recently been sedentary and engaging in sloth and gluttony now scramble to “get healthy” … most with little success as they experience the effort and time (they are still unwilling to make) to exercise daily and eliminate the junk they eat for a healthier diet.

— David Robinson, New Bedford, Massachusetts

— Dr. David Voran, Kansas City, Missouri

Lead Aprons And Sticky Labels

I’m writing to draw your attention to a term used in your story “No Shield From X-Rays: How Science Is Rethinking Lead Aprons” (Jan. 15).

In the first line of the piece, the term “technician” is used to refer to the practitioners who perform X-ray procedures. As a clarification, we advise using the term “technologist” when referring to medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals. Radiologic technologists are educated in anatomy, patient positioning, examination techniques, equipment protocols, radiation safety, radiation protection and basic patient care. The medical community and American Society of Radiologic Technologists use the term “technologist,” which accurately reflects the educational level, responsibilities and skill set of registered and certified radiologic technologists.

As the professional society that represents the country’s radiologic technologists, we reach out to news outlets and request that they use the term “technologists” when referring to medical imaging professionals. As reported in the story, Drs. Feinstein and Marsh refer to their staff medical imaging professionals as “technologists.” We’re confident that the terminology more accurately represents the profession and is the standard usage among health care providers, educators and the broader medical community.

— Greg Crutcher, public relations manager, American Society of Radiologic Technologists, Albuquerque, New Mexico

— Dr. Sheila Samadarr, Washington, D.C.

In The Media Dance, Misleading Missteps

The interview with Seema Verma (“One-On-One With Trump’s Medicare And Medicaid Chief: Seema Verma,” Jan. 3) was notable for its lack of clarity on Verma’s part. She danced around so much that she could have been on “Dancing With the Stars,” but never directly answered questions such as what the Trump administration would do if the ACA were abolished via the courts as she and the administration want. She also misled the reader about Medicare, one of our most popular programs.

Medicare is not disliked by participants. In fact, it is rated higher in satisfaction than private-sector insurance. Verma’s free-market ideology appears to be causing her to misstate the facts, a frequent issue in this administration.

— Jack Bernard, former director of Georgia’s Office of Health Planning, Peachtree City, Georgia

— Richard James, Philadelphia

‘Nurturing’ Takes Time

The title of the piece “Reduce Health Costs By Nurturing The Sickest? A Much-Touted Idea Disappoints” (Jan. 8) is inaccurate. The article reports on how a 90-day intervention to reduce costs in the sickest patients did not show any benefit. However, truly nurturing the sickest is not something that can be done successfully in 90 days. I think it suggests how degenerate American health care has become when such a short intervention can be referred to as “nurturing.” Perhaps a better title might be “Putting a Band-Aid on a Chronic Ulcer Is Useless.”

— Dr. Joseph P. Arpaia, Eugene, Oregon

— Leah Harris, Arlington, Virginia

Shedding Light On Violent Patients

I want to thank Heidi De Marco for her great article about violence in hospitals (“Postcard From San Diego: Patient-Induced Trauma: Hospitals Learn To Defuse Violence,” Dec. 6). I am an occupational therapist who used to work in a hospital. Once an 87-year-old woman with dementia grabbed me by the neck, lifted me off the floor and was getting ready to punch me with her other hand. As a former victim of domestic assault, I knew the best strategy when being choked is to try to relax as much as possible. I had orders to walk the woman, but she thought I was trying to rob her. Found out she needed four security guards when she was in the ER. I ended up going to the ER myself.

The situation was especially difficult because: 1) I didn’t feel I could fight back for fear of losing my job. 2) I didn’t feel right pressing charges against her, also for fear of retaliation, and it’s not as if the woman was in her right mind. But because I didn’t press charges, the incident went unreported. I am not even sure what the answer is, but I am glad your article is bringing this to light. Thank you!

— Stephanie Blossomgame, Villa Park, Illinois

— Kathy Flaherty, Newington, Connecticut

Launch A Broad Investigation Abroad?

I am an American who works as a health economics researcher in Japan. I wanted to let KHN know how important this journalism project is: exposing health care billing that drives up the cost of insurance — even if insurance “covers” some charges upfront (“Bill of the Month: For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865,” Dec. 23). The fact that this overly complex and inefficient system is tolerated is baffling to me. I was in very deep with the U.S. system when I returned from Japan to the U.S. for emergency chemo and stem-cell transplant for leukemia (thank goodness I still had U.S. insurance!). While I received excellent care at that time, I now continue to receive follow-up care in Japan, which is just as advanced in terms of tech and more so for systematic efficiency. I use the national health insurance, and — even in another language — testing, billing, wait times, cost are all a breeze.

I wonder if KHN/NPR could compare the U.S. with health care systems of other high-income countries (Singapore, Finland, etc.), using real-world patient experiences? I think there is a common misconception that the U.S. way is the only way. Anyway, thank you very much for your hard work on this important topic.

— Russell Miller, San Diego and Tokyo

— Dr. Christopher Crow, Plano, Texas

— Wayne Allyn Root, Las Vegas

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