PHOENIX (CN) – Maricopa County is testing its employees’ saliva to see if they use nicotine, calling it an incentive for workers to stop smoking, to save up to $480 per year on the county health plan.
County officials said the number of employees who admit they use tobacco – about 10 percent – appears to be too low, the Arizona Republic reported. The saliva tests are meant to find out whether the alleged nonsmokers are telling the truth.
The test is taken by swabbing the inside cheek.
Maricopa County Manager David Smith sent employees an email on Feb. 11, describing the process. The mail states that county employees “must complete a saliva test that detects the use of nicotine” to be considered for the health insurance discount.
“If you pass the test and if all your covered dependents have not used tobacco products for the past six months, you will qualify to save up to $480 annually ($20 savings per pay period) as an incentive for being tobacco free,” the email states.
The email describes tobacco use as “the occasional or regular use of a tobacco product including, but not limited to: cigarettes, cigars, pipes, snuff, chewing tobacco and any other product containing tobacco.”
Smith’s email adds that if an employee gives the county “inaccurate information regarding covered dependent(s) in order to receive the incentive for which you are not eligible, you may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”
Some county employees feel the cheek swab is an invasion of their privacy and that the information taken from the swabs could be used to test for other medical conditions.
But Smith’s email claims that employees’ test results “are confidential and will not be reported to Maricopa County.”