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Morning headlines: Friday, June 17, 2011

Next month, SSM Health Care will no longer hire smokers.
Flickr | SuperFantastic
Next month, SSM Health Care will no longer hire smokers.

SSM Health Care will not Hire Smokers Starting in July

A St. Louis-based health care organization says it wants to improve the health of its employees and set an example, so smokers need not apply.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reportsthat SSM Health Care will begin a tobacco-free hiring policy in July.

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 consideration for a job.

SSM spokesman Chris Sutton says cost-cutting is a side benefit. Federal statistics show that a typical smoker costs a company $3,400 annually in health care costs and lost productivity.

Visitors Stuck on Arch Tram

A tram that takes visitors to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis stalled Thursday afternoon leaving about 40 visitors stranded for about an hour.

The U.S. Park Service said the tram on the Arch's north side stopped about 200 feet short of the top after an electrical outage.  Workers were able to pull the tram manually to the observation deck. The visitors then took another tram down the south leg of the Arch to get back down to ground level.

Two people, a visitor and a Park Service employee, had minor injuries, but officials would not describe the injuries. Jody Waller of Wildwood told The St. Louis Post-Dispatchthe lights and air conditioning were off during the outage and that "there was a lot of panicking."

Ill. Construction Bill to Be Approved Without Extra Money

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he'll approve a construction bill without extra money for social services, averting a shutdown of about $16.6 billion in state construction projects. The construction bill had been in legislative limbo.

Gov. Pat Quinn set a Friday deadline for legislative leaders to come to consensus on the legislation that pays for construction for highways, schools and other state projects. But Senate Democrats had added $430 million to the bill in the spring legislative session for education and social services. The House refused to go along.

In a statement Thursday, Cullerton says there are still deficiencies in the House budget and the issues of underfunding of education and social service commitments must be addressed.