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FILE - In this June 11, 2009, a customer at the Red Key Taven in Indianapolis lights a cigarette. The Food and Drug Administration is working to lift the smokescreen clouding the ingredients used in cigarettes and other tobacco products.(AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

An Indiana bill would let companies test -- and fire -- employees for tobacco use

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A proposed bill in Indiana would repeal the so-called “smoker’s bill of rights” protected under state law, according to WCPO.

WCPO on Tuesday reported that eliminating that portion of state code would let businesses test current and respective employees for tobacco use.

Businesses would also be capable of withholding health coverage from smokers, refusing to hire them and even firing employees over their tobacco use during their free time.

The Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) last week reported that Indiana state Sen. Liz Brown (R-Fort Wayne) had introduced the proposed legislation.

RELATED: A company gave non-smokers six extra days off to make up for co-workers' smoke breaks

Brown’s measure is titled Senate Bill 23, and it would let employers in Indiana require job-seekers stop using tobacco products, even after hours, as an employment condition.

“We want to give employers the ability to manage their employees and their insurance costs without the state carving out a special class for protection,” she told IBJ last week.

The “smoker’s bill of rights” has existed in Indiana law since 1991, making it one of more than 20 states with smoker-protection laws nationwide.

Employers in Indiana, however, have complained in recent years that their inability to screen out smokers during the hiring process has raised their insurance costs.

RELATED: A company fired 50 employees for refusing to get flu shots

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce said last week that smoking is the only voluntary action that has special protection under state law during the hiring process.

“We don’t agree with that,” said Mike Ripley, the chamber’s vice president of health care policy and employment law.

“Employers foot the bill for the bulk of coverage costs for their workers, so they should be able to learn upfront if a potential employee is a smoker.”

Indiana’s state House last year approved a measure repealing the “smoker’s bill of rights” in a 54-38 vote.

The bill in question, however, never got a hearing in Indiana’s state Senate before last year’s end.

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