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SANDPOINT -- Bonner County Commissioner Mike Nielsen says the county will consider a plan to avoid hiring new employees who smoke or chew tobacco.

Nielsen tells the Bonner County Daily Bee that he plans to discuss the idea during a department head meeting on Jan. 6.

Nielsen says the policy is needed to prevent tobacco users from raising health care costs that are paid for in part by taxpayers.

Nielsen says smokers could still be hired, but they'd have six months to quit to remain employed by the county.

Existing employees who smoke or chew tobacco wouldn't be affected. But those employees aren't allowed a 20-percent discount on health insurance costs.

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