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Maricopa County Testing Workers for Nicotine

Some Maricopa County workers are burned up about a new health-plan requiring them to submit saliva for nicotine analysis.

The Arizona Republic reports the test is intended to reveal whether those being insured are smokers. Employees who said no are penalized with higher medical-insurance premiums, while those testing negative for tobacco use are spared a premium that is $480 higher per year.

Some county workers say they cannot afford to refuse the test. Others say they fear the medical information obtained from the exams will be used against them or shared with others.

A county spokeswoman said officials do not keep data on how much tobacco users cost to insure compared with non-tobacco users.

Information sent to county workers says the test results will be shared with the county's employee-benefits division but will be kept confidential by staff trained in patient confidentiality.