Smokers need not apply at SSM Health Care hospitals, which will start a tobacco-free hiring policy next month. Job applicants at the seven SSM hospitals in the St. Louis area will be asked whether they have used tobacco in the last six months. Anyone who answers yes will be eliminated from the hiring process. "As an organization that provides healthcare, we want to encourage our employees to take better care of themselves and set good examples for our patients," said SSM spokesman Chris Sutton. Cost-cutting is a side benefit of the new policy, Sutton said, because "healthier employees does mean lower healthcare costs." Each smoker costs a company an additional $3,400 annually in health care costs and lost productivity, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current SSM employees will not be bound by the policy when they're off-duty. All SSM facilities have been tobacco-free since 2004.