Human Resources News & Insights

Can you legally refuse to hire someone who smokes?

With health-coverage costs going up, especially for high-risk employees, more and more employers are looking at put smokers on the “need not apply” list. Is it legal?

The quick answer is: It seems to be legal — so far — but that depends on what state you do business in. Consider:

  • Federal anti-discrimination laws don’t protect smokers. So the Feds’ approach is it’s up to the employer.
  • There are 16 states that do have laws prohibiting employment decisions, such as hiring, based on the tobacco habits of a candidate. (But those laws usually don’t prevent employers from making life miserable for their workers who smoke — banning smoking in the workplace or charging more for health coverage are pretty much legal.)
  • In most states, your official application can contain a question asking if the applicant smokes. You might ask that to make determinations about the cost of health coverage. What if the applicant lies by checking the “no” box on the application? You might be justified in using the lie to refuse to hire or to later fire the person if hired. Laws vary from state to state on that one.
  • At least one employer has tested the waters and refuses to hire smokers. Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, TN, doesn’t hire new employees who use any kind of tobacco products, on or off duty. How does the hospital do it? Nicotine screenings are part of Memorial’s standard drug test for new hires.
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  1. “charging more for health coverage are pretty much legal”

    Does this ever cause problems with increasing their premiums if the employee thinks that they are “addicted” to smoking? Could the ADA come back and say this person is being discriminated against because of a health (substance) addiction. I know some plans have set higher premiums for smokers, but wondered if any companies have ran into any obsicales later on with the ADA and charging different rates for smokers. I would imagine they must have provided some classes or something first before increasting their rates. I guess those same plans for increased smoking also do it for overweight employees?

  2. Sorry there were a couple of typos in that post.

  3. Be careful with this issue. The ADA, and use of legal products laws, and regulating off duty conduct can run an employer into quick trouble.

    I support a total ban on tobacco and I laud the Tennessee hospital for taking a stand, but they are taking a risk in today’s litigous society where we love to have rules to protect people.

    An employer should not penalize smokers in their health insurance premium either, but giving discounts to non smokers seems to be acceptable.

    Until tobacco is banned, employers need to be careful in how they administer no smoking rules.

  4. I find it interesting that the insurance companies do not consider chewing tobacco and snuff in the application process. It only asks about smoking. What about alcoholics? Does the employment application incl8de whether they drink or not? Weight & height for obesity? We are in epidemic stage in this country for obesity and diabetes not just in adults but in children as well. Obesity and diabetes can cause as much or more health issues as smoking.

  5. It’s interesting that any reasonable person would consider punishing an employer for not hiring smokers or establishing higher benefits premiums, when the government was able to pull off a rule to make restaurants decide whether to be a non-smoking facility or not. How is this right? When the employer wants to take that same stance, they are being warned against lawsuits. This is outrageous.

  6. Well, it seems that the insurance companies have fully implemented the “divide and conquer” approach to healthcare.

    First, get it accepted that companies are responsible for providing health care, that we have a right to the company’s sponsored health care and that anything else would be evil and socialistic communism. As part of this, ensure that no national standards are developed so that groups (pool of participants) will be relatively small and that it is difficult to form groups over state lines.

    Second, establish that insurance companies do not need to provide coverage for excluded persons (ill, old, etc.). In a capitalistic society, companies should not be regulated and that profit is good. Therefore if there are those who will cost a lot, they should be excluded for the good of business and they should either pay for their own coverage or the government should pick up the tab. If they qualify for Medicare/ Medicaid, those should be their PRIMARY INSURANCE.

    Third, support religious fanatics in their vilifying smoking, drinking, sex, gluttony, and other practices as evil and worthy of judgment. Conduct studies/research and promote those with results that support only those findings that prove the evilness and subsequent judgment of god on those who practice these evils. It is essential to “demonize” the individual. If anyone does a study that does not support these findings, question who funded the study and do not consider the merits. If possible, where there may be more than one interest present, support the interest that is least likely to disagree with you (for instance, support an unborn child over the life of the mother).

    Fourth, start a “blame the ill person campaign.” Kick ‘em while they are down because they smoked, ate too much, drank, had sex, didn’t exercise enough, etc. Promote that their illness is due to their “lifestyle” choice and they now must endure the “consequences” of that evil choice. Do not entertain any discussion of a person’s dignity for the possibility that it might “humanize” the ill person.

    Finally, starting with smokers, make them unemployable and ineligible for employer sponsored healthcare in the first place. Soon after, move the campaign to other groups (fat people, women, veterans, old people, criminals (many are alcohol/ drug abusers), etc.) that have high medical use/ payments.

    The objective is to squeeze as much money out of the healthy population (usually the young and employed) for services they don’t need and then dump those with illness on their own or to the state. Insurance companies do not “insure” patients and spread out costs over a large pool to make it affordable, but “insure” high profits for their administrative services and lobbying expertise.

  7. Well said, Mike R.

  8. We are a small firm, but several of our employees (the boss included) are allergic to and/or have breathing issues around smoke. Shouldn’t their health matter?!? We do not ask potential hires if they smoke (you can usually tell anyway…), but we state up front that ours is a smoke-free environment, and that our premise, vehicles, etc. are to be tobacco-free. and that no person shall be on premises with evidence (i.e. stench) of smoke on person, clothes, hair, etc. . I have reprimanded and/or sent home an office assistant whose coat and hair reeked. We shared a small office and I couldn’t stand it. Can’t control what someone does on their own time, but the company climate is that those who choose to smoke (or use other such products) really should not have the “right” to make it uncomfortable or unpleasant for those who prefer to breathe clean air. Nor should the entire staff have to pay higher insurance because for the users. As an aside, it’s always amazing to observe how many people in health care are smokers.

  9. Mike,
    You are a man after my own heart. Could not have said it better. I just spent several weeks fighting an ordinace in my home town that bans smoking in the bleachers and within 30 feet of a backstop at our city owned parks. Dont smoke cigarettes but fought it on principle. Much bigger fish to fry then smoking in an open air park.

  10. In response to GRAM. I agree that a smoker’s by products should not infringe upon fellow employees. However, the same standards should apply regarding excessive perfume, aftershave etc… Do you include chewing tobacco and snuff in your tobacco free policy?

  11. Gram, do you send people home if they have b.o, as well? What if his/her coat smelled of mothballs? To send someone home because of how they smell is a little ridiculous. What if said employee doesn’t like the smell of your soap? What recourse do they have? People offend my tastes all the time, but you know what I do? I suck it up, ’cause it usually means no harm to me.

  12. I can go along with charging smokers more for things such as health insurance as long as overweight people can be charged more as well. They have just as many, if not more, health related issues than smokers.

  13. This is a form of discrimination. Cigarette smoking is not illegal. My response to Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tn. who has banned smoking on and off duty, to go a step further. If off duty cigarette smoking is included in their hiring process, then we should also ban alcohol from being consumed on and off duty. Alcohol is addictive and is life threatening. I wonder how many people that work in that hospital go home after work and have a night cap in the comfort of their home?

  14. just wondering – What would happen if it some statistician can prove a correlation between smoking and membership in a protected class? Would that make the refusal to hire smokers a situation of institutional discrimination?

  15. Anyone know the 16 states that have laws prohibiting employment decisions, such as hiring, based on the tobacco habits of a candidate?

  16. In response to GRAM… and a few others… Please, for a moment consider the self-centered nature of your comments. I say.. “why should you put up with someone who reeked?” Because, you’re not the center of the universe. Nor am I, none of us are. We are all here together, and the world as a whole would be a better place if we could all, if only for one hour a day, consider the needs of someone else as more important than our own. On any given day, it’s likely that dozens of people have to put up with something irritating that each of us do… have you ever eaten food with a strong odor? Worn too much cologne? Used a shampoo or fabric softener that bothered other people? We could go on forever with this type of ridiculous nit-picking. The point is this… How about all of us as individuals living by the Golden Rule, or even a Judeo-Christian ethos, love your neighbor as yourself? What ever made any of us believe that we’re so special, that we should be accepted given all of our shortcomings, but that we have some special right, making us too important to have to accept or endure the shortcomings of others? How different would things be if your company, health care provider, local/state government, etc., all lived by the Golden Rule?

  17. A very wise man once said, “In American you are free to spread your arms as wide and far and you can reach, UNTIL they bump into someone else. There your freedom to spread your arms stops.” Seems this would pertain to a mulitude of things.

  18. Phyllis, it’s technically a form of discrimination unless there is a law indicating such. As the article points out, the are no Fed laws protection smokers, and many states dont’ have such laws. Title VII doesn’t apply to smokers.

    Chuck, your example COULD create a possible disparate impact situation if such a correlation could be proven….such as the case of making hiring decisions based on arrest records alone.

  19. …re: my last entry, meant to say “NOT a form of discrimination”…..

  20. Memorial Hospital isn’t the only place that has a non-smoking policy on or off duty. Cleveland Clinic also has it for new hires (those that were employed when the policy was instated were granfathered).

    Mike R – I have so many issues with what you wrote that I can’t begin to write them…..but here is my main issue. What about those people that were born with a disorder or developed a disorder at no fault of theirs. Would you ban them from Health insurance? What if these people have no major disablity and take care of themselves? I do agree that the responsibility of keeping healthy has to start with the members and those that don’t take the responsibility should pay the price. But the people that have to use the health care facilities to maintain a condition that they were born with or developed shouldn’t be banned. The disorders I am talking about unfortunately can have high dollar claims, but they can be managed so that the cost is minimized (i.e. MS, Lupus, Juvenile Diabetes, cancers, and the list goes on).

    By the way, I personally fall on a few of those criteria that you banned people and none of them could I control. I am a woman and I have a couple of medical conditions that are not caused by lifestyle, being overweight, smoking, drinking, or eany other bad habits. Also, there are many people that are overwight because of genetics, not lifestyle (I know quite a few).

  21. Chris Davis says:

    You are right it is discrimination but not all discrimanation is illegal or for that matter wrong. I discriminate against people when hiring who have poor grammar, people who show up late for interviews, people who change jobs every 3 months, etc. Until smokers become a protected class (and I think it could happen due to the addiction element) employers should have a right to choose not to hire them.

    Thanks for the shout out to those you deemed religous fanatics. I am sure organizations like MADD, American Cancer Society and other groups that have no religous affiliation will be grateful for the revelation that they have been duped by these wackos and will cease operations immediately.

    If you had a drunken driving conviction or several speeding tickets would you expect your car insurance costs to stay the same? The real shame is that so many people have the cost of their healthcare impacted just because they happen to work at the same place of someone who had a high claim.

  22. @ AM : Mike was being faceitious.

    As for banning smokers, if one addictive substance is banned, then all should be banned. This includes but is not limited to: cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, smokeless tobacco products, alcohol, pain medications, ‘maintenance’ medications, religion, and happiness.

    Once all of this nonsense is banned, capitalism will have no other place to go but upwards.

    Oh, and let’s kill hippies and PETA members too. Patchouli IS NOT soap.

  23. I have a real issue with employers even being allowed to ask this question! It is not illegal, nor is being overweight or drinking alcohol as long as you are over the age of 21 and not driving. Therefore it is a privacy issue what someone does on their own time. Make all the rules you want during work hours and at your place of business but when the work day is over and employees are off your property they are private American citizens only. The very Americans that won the freedoms that my uncles, cousins and brothers died for in the Wars and the very reason we are fighting in foreign land now! FREEDOM TO CHOOSE Choose our own opportunities, our own destinies and our mistakes but it each ones own choice. Give up your freedoms now for whatever reason you think is so all mighty important and slowly you see little by little one by one each of them disappear and wonder where they all went because everyone thinks that smoking or obesity or whatever the hot topic for the moment is so important that they can’t see the big picture! Take away someones right today and lose one of your rights tomorrow!

  24. Ryan & Estelle,

    I’m sure that as HR professionals, we have all dealt with employees that have a problem with grooming. I too thought the same about overlooking employees that had a strong smell of smoke or perfume until one of our employees had an asthma attack in our office and 911 was summoned. It was very alarming to see her gasping for air. What was worse, was that she had already complained about it. Since we had a small office, we couldn’t move her anywhere. She filed Workers’ Comp and last I heard (I am no longer there), it hasn’t been resolved.

    Given this, I have changed my mind.

  25. I am allergic to smoke but found an ash tray emptied into the garbage can under my desk. Was I sick! I support no smoking in the workplace.

  26. I do not agree with the pre-employment screening for tobacco, and I do believe many people would view the pre-employment screening as descriminative. What happens when a non-smoker decides to pick up the habit and smoke after getting the job? Will there be (costly) random drug screenings?
    Is “legal discrimination” even ethical?

    If a company decides to join the “War on Tobacco”, a discount for a non-tobacco user’s healthcare is suitable. I think they should not attack the smokers, but offer some type of assistance to help a smoker quit if he/she chooses to. After all, all the smokers in the world were, at one point in time or another, non-smokers, and the war should be on tobacco not victims of tobacco a.k.a. “smokers”.

    I have been a smoker for 22 years and was addicted to cigarettes by the age of 8 years old (both my parents smoked, so cigarettes were easily accessible). I have tried numerous times to quit with little success, until the company I work for offered financial assistance to smokers to kick the habit (the more successful smoke aids are very expensive).

    I am now on my 3rd week being smoke-free, and I feel as if I am making one of my greatest achievements in my life. Tobacco is extremely addictive, and it takes a lot of work and dedication to kick the habit (especially since it is legal!!!). I feel I am winning my personal war with tobacco.

    I have one more comment I would like to share. I am a dedicated, and loyal employee; being a smoker/non-smoker does not change that. I love the company I work for more than ever because it did not discriminate against me; it is helping me become a healthier person.

  27. WOW – Everyone Chill Out!
    Leave it up to our wonderful government; when they decide they don’t want the American public to smoke anymore, they will lace our cigarettes with chemicals to kill us, just like they did with alcohol during prohibition 🙂
    But in the meantime, they are making way too much money off of smokers to stop them!

  28. Gram,

    Your comment regarding healthcare providers who smoke should tell you how difficult it is to quit smoking. After all, a health care provider should know the risks/damages of smoking more than any of us.

    Maybe instead of sending your employees home for “stinking”, you could try to create a benefit for smokers to help them quit.

  29. Well car insurance goes up if you have tickets or accidents, so why shouldn’t health insurance go up if you have habits that are not healthy? Such as over weight or smoking? People get all worked up about an insurance company making money, but I bet no one would lose any sleep if they take a loss?
    It should go both ways. Funny how the “goverment” gets all outraged if they hear that an insurance company is making a profit, but they never seem to have a problem with goverment taking tax money and blowing it on one wasted program after another.

  30. You do have to be careful, at least in some states, about making hiring decsions based on an employee’s use of lawful products. (Harley-Davidson found that out when they fired an employee for riding a non-Harley bike.)

    Regarding health insurance rates being different for smokers, that’s part of risk management. Note that for years, smokers have paid higher rates for life insurance, as have diabetics and others with chronic health issues. (Same principle mentioned by others with regard to car insurance.)

    Health insurance costs would likely be more manageable if they were more “discriminatory”, or more appropriately, if you could choose a health plan to suit your needs instead of one that is a blanket approach for all. For example, I am a male. Why does my policy have to cover exams that are unique to females? Why can’t I customize it the same as I do my auto insurance? For that matter, why can’t I shop for health insurance across state lines? Why does it have to be tied to my employer to get reasonable rates? Why can’t I buy a plan that suits my needs and take it with me to any employer I choose to work for?

    But I digress; the article was about smokers, and as long as our smoking employees abide by our smoke-free workplace policy, what they choose to do to their bodies is their business. At least that is how it still is now in America.

  31. I like the approach that my spouses company takes regarding this issue. They have 2 health care premiums, a standard premium and a reduced-cost premium if you participate in the Health Risk Assessment and counseling process. They also offer quit-smoking programs, discounted gym memberships, healthy-eating classes, etc.

    Studies have shown that smoking, being overweight, excessive drinking, sedentary lifestyles, etc contribute to health problems and thus higher costs. Just as with any other product, insurance companies should be able to set different rates based on risk (car insurance charge people who have accidents or speeding tickets higher premiums and life insurance companies charge people who skydive higher premiums than those who don’t). Companies are not evil who try to appropriately charge customers for the risk that the insurance company must take on. If the insurance company can’t cover it’s risk, it will go out of business. Yes, people should be free to choose whatever they want to do off-duty, but there are always prices to pay for your actions. So if you choose to smoke, then you also choose to pay higher premiums.

    That said, too many insurance companies are making outrageous profits because a lot of the reasons people stated above. Because healthcare insurance is pretty much necessary for most people, these insurance companies have all the leverage and the backing of politicians due to their political contributions and insider clout. This profit issue should be handled separately than the health-care reforms through some sort of taxation changes, etc.

    It also isn’t fair to charge those who have healthy lifestyles to subsidize the rates of those who super-size their meals at McDonalds every day, drink to excess that it destroys their liver, or those who make themselves susceptible to cancer, emphysema, etc through smoking or chewing tobacco products. Granted there will be people with genetic predispositions, handicaps, or other real medical reasons (beyond their control) that provisions should be made in the law for. However, far too many people sit on their laurels and use the excuse that it is genetic so that they can continue to live an unhealthy lifestyle. If someone really has a medical-related pre-existing condition to which they are not contributing to the problem, then there really needs to be protections for these people (I don’t know the answer to this particular issue, but if the smart people could focus on a few specific necessary issues like this rather than debating everything, maybe solutions could be developed).

    The current system of employer-sponsored health programs that is renewed annually is part of what contributes to the healthcare mess. Healthcare organizations have no incentive to look out for the long-term health or well-being of their enrollees. They may forgo necessary tests so as to push these off to other insurance companies in the future if the person changes employers or medical plans at the next open enrollment. Additionally constantly changing plans and doctor participation often create a short-term single-service mentality in medical practitioners that may under-perform testing to keep their current year costs low or who may over-inflate bills and order extra tests to get additional short-term revenue. There is too much disincentive for long-term thinking on both the part of the individual and the health-care providers. Some incentive needs to be addressed to keep the healthy and young in the system (similar to 20/30-year term life insurance polices that are dirt cheap if you get in young, but progressively get more expensive the longer you wait to enroll).

    I have a person in my office who is highly allergic to smoke, heavy perfumes, and aerosol sprays such as Lysol. Her having to learn to live with other’s shortcomings isn’t a choice. She can not breathe and will cease to live if people come in contact with her with excessive smoke, perfumes etc. I believe someone’s right to live outweighs someone’s choice to smoke or wear fragrances (neither of which is necessary to perform the job, however breathing is a work necessity). Smoking is a choice, but there are consequences to pay for that choice. I may choose to not wear my seatbelt, but my auto insurance rates will reflect that additional risk.

  32. Well said, Kay. I have thought alot about the Employer “responsibility” to provide health care insurance. I keep coming back to the same conclusion. Your health care insurance should be an individual purchase, not through your employer. As Kay stated, if there was the incentive to get insured young, and take personal responsibility for your premiums, your choice of care, and your lifestyle, everyone would probably be healthier, and insurance would be cheaper, wages could be higher, and the administration cost for the insurance companies would be much less — rewriting policies every year seems like SUCH a waste. I pray this Obama health debacle fails to become law, and heaven help us if it does. Many people who think it is OKAY do not understand that down in the depths and the guts of this thing is the abolishment of our 9th and 10th Constitutional amendments. There they go…….rights & freedoms gone bye bye.

    • Being “healthy” doesn’t always work out either. My friend ate healthy and ran 5-8 miles a day and never smoked a day in his life and guess what……he had to have a TRIPLE by-pass and ended up spending time in the hospital and bues what I am a smoker that eats what I want and I (knock on wood) haven’t had any health issues. So why should I have to pay more for insurance when the only time I have used it is to do a yearly physical???

  33. Jagger, have you ever considered purchasing insurance on your own? You will find that the insurance companies will put up a high hurdle for you to get covered. They will find ways to deny coverage or have exclusions. Yes, people should improve their personal habits to improve/ensure their health; however, there are times when non lifestyle habits bring about disease or life changing accidents. What are these people supposed to do? Finally, in regard to the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution, is your focus on this document recent or have you be this vigorous in your defense of this document since 9/11?

  34. WOW. Let’s just keep taking away from American Citizens. Go ahead lets take away all rights from every one and we can become like some other countries. Next thing you know we will be limited to what, when and how we do things. What’s next?

  35. Dear John! Yes, things would have to change to make personal health insurance work. Opening up the free market for insurance companies would go a long way to cause competetion to “shape them up”. Also, taking the employer out of the mix, and put the entire country into the same pool would help in the area of those concerns you have about being turned down. This government has got to stop this notion that they can sit on top of the puppet stage and pull the strings. If allowed to function without unnecessary contstraints the free market will sort it all out. Any business person knows this. Lawyers? maybe not.

    As far as the Constitution is concerned, I have been holding tight to this document, believing our Founding Fathers had all our best interests at heart since I studied it intensly in US History in high school. Yes, they actually taught US History in high school in the 50’s.

  36. Mike R: HIGH FIVE!!!!! I used to think that smokers should not be insurable because of health problems associated with it and high claims rating but I changed my point of view because I was being judgmental which is something I don’t like in other people.

    There is a Health Insurance Company down the street from my job. They require their smokers to walk all the way down the driveway and smoke at the entrance off the main road. If they were trying to use this as incentive to quit, it isn’t working. It can be 2 degrees, freezing rain and they have to ice skate to the end of the driveway, and they are out there with frozen hands smoking anyway. All this to say, NOTHING will deter smokers if they aren’t ready to quit. Even the high cost and taxes on cigarettes don’t help, they will hunt for change in their sofas to get the money to purchase them if they have to. Same goes for Drug Addicts, Alcoholics and Morbidly Obese people.

  37. The issue of personal responsibility is a nuanced and complicated one. On the surface, it seems as though we aren’t holding people responsible for their unhealthy or risky habits if we don’t penalize them for these habits. Almost all of us engage in such habits or have at one time – using drugs, smoking, drinking alcohol, having casual or unprotected sex, not getting enough exercise, engaging in dangerous sports, driving above the speed limit, etc. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who has never engaged in any of these potentially harmful activities. So, what are we to do, then? Assign a dollar value to each risky activity and assess individuals who participate in such activities the corresponding penalty? We’d all end up paying a fine.

    Perhaps it makes more sense to understand that, ultimately, we’re all held liable for our choices. Many smokers will develop cancer and die an absolutely miserable death. Many obese people (who developed obesity due to poor diet and exercise) will have limited mobility, difficult performing simple tasks, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and will die of heart disease. Many people who engage in unprotected sex will develop painful and embarrassing diseases, and some will die of AIDS. Actions have consequences. If I make healthier, safer choices than someone else, will I end up subsidizing their health coverage at some point – in effect, validating their unhealthy decisions? Sure. But there’s also I good chance I’ll live a much longer, more enjoyable life, and you can’t assign any dollar value to that.

  38. To Lauren: “If I make healthier, safer choices than someone else, will I end up subsidizing their health coverage at some point – in effect, validating their unhealthy decisions? Sure. But there’s also I good chance I’ll live a much longer, more enjoyable life, and you can’t assign any dollar value to that.”

    The Health Insurance Industry has defined the argument to only look at the cost of unhealthy lifestyles as they affect working age employees and therefore their profit margin. The truly sick, unemployed, or the elderly fall on the government and are paid through taxes. I am amazed that there is very little outrage at this arrangement. The real elephant in the room is the cost of unhealthy lifestyles on the entire healthcare system over a person’s life. It may be unpleasant to hear, but those who choose a “heallthy lifestyle” while costing employer health insurance companies less and resulting in more profits actually live longer and cost the government MORE. Many obese and smokers are ineligible for some surgeries and care and die much sooner. The healthy have more knee replacements, cornea replacements, and hospital stays over their lifetime. Studies have been done overseas (because the data is carefully guarded in the US) that an obese person will cost about 10% less than a healthy person over their lifetime. A smoker is about 26% less.

    It would be fair and equitable to charge those with unhealthy lifestyles with higher premiums than those with healthy lifestyles, but then tax those with unhealthy lifestyles far less to compensate for the savings their early demise will save the government. Of course, the healthy don’t like that because that it doesn’t agree with their worldview- Healthy (Good) people should be rewarded financially for their RIGHT choices and unhealthy (Bad) people should be punished for their WRONG choices.

    To Chris Davis: “Thanks for the shout out to those you deemed religous fanatics. I am sure organizations like MADD, American Cancer Society and other groups that have no religous affiliation will be grateful for the revelation that they have been duped by these wackos and will cease operations immediately.”

    The movement started by people in positions of influence who held the belief that “smoking was evil.” They looked for research that supported that premise and rejected anything that was contrary. They used their positions in government to start “educating” society, similar to how Germany “educated” their children in WWII to turn in their parents.

    Those organizations with “no religious affiliation” have an even stronger motive to maintain the current direction- money. A quick check of the American Cancer Society website will show that the majority of it’s donations coming in are spent not on treating cancer or those with cancer, but to advertise its “anti smoking campaign” and administrative costs. In most states, there are groups falling all over themselves to get a piece of the tobacco settlements and providing more “anti smoking” videos and materials. Lawyers love this because there is still more money to be made in the future from lawsuits against the vilified tobacco industry. Health departments see that fines from violations of smoking bans will be a new source of revenue. States have raised taxes on smoking products and have watched as they have created smoking bans and negative campaigns against smokers, and the stressed out smokers by even more.

  39. Steve R. says:

    I noticed many people on this blog mentioning the ADA with regards to smokers. My opinion is that smoking would have to interfere with a major life activity for the ADA to come into affect. Most smokers I know don’t have difficulty with major life activities, so I would think the ADA would be weak in defending a smoker’s right to light up.

  40. I could be wrong about this but I have seen a great majority of smokers and obese people who DO NOT go to the doctor that often because they usually don’t want to hear what the doctor has to say about “what they should be doing to change their lifestyles” or are afraid that some health condition may be revealed. Because they generally feel good, they see no need to go. Some don’t see docs until they are so sick they can’t avoid it.

    On the flip side, think about this……There are just as many so called healthy people that go to the doctor for every little thing which also drives up health costs as wel

  41. I agree Stacy that some people go to the doctor for every little thing and drive up costs. That is part of the reason healthcare needs to become more consumer-directed. High-deductible plans and/or Health Savings Account plans would take care of that problem because patients/consumers would see the immediate and true cost of their visits. We don’t want people to skip going to the doctor because of the cost, but yet we don’t want them to run to the doctor for every little thing either.

    Those who abuse the system (or even just use more), would end up paying more off the top and they’d immediately see the impact of their choices. Of course the “maximum” out-of-pocket contribution requirement would kick-in to stop catestrophic effects on individuals/families and provide an umbrella of protection. I have no problem paying my fair share. If I use state parks more, then I should pay more in fees. If I use more bandwidth in my downloads/Internet usage, I should pay more. If I use more healthcare, then I should pay more.

    Someone made an excellent comment about the elderly, handicapped, and infirm being pushed off onto the government/taxpayer. Something needs to be done to address this issue (although I don’t have any suggestions, I’m sure there are a lot of bright people and ideas out there). And if at some point, I’m past the point of diminishing returns, then I want my family to pull the plug rather than go through extraordinary measures and costs to try to keep me living longer.

  42. Kay: Well said! I have a Living Will so that eveyone is clear on my wishes should some tragic incident or illness befall me and leave me in a permanent vegitative state. I don’t want to be a science project or pull my family under with astronomical medical bills. I think the Elderly, truly Disabled and Infirm should be priority in our health system.

    Also, I am on a high deductible health insurance which I absolutely LOVE because my share of the monthly premium is low and if anything catastrophic happens, my only out of pocket expense would be $1,500!!!

  43. What are the 16 states that prohibit hiring decisions based on tobacco use?

  44. My company is about to announce a no-smoking workplace. I have no problems with that.

    In addition to this change, they will no longer be hiring smokers. Which, apparently, is sketchy on the legality because it is not specifically stated in anti-discrimination laws. This is all in reaction to health care costs.

    The real fear is that this just happens to be the socially acceptable LEGAL habit to harass people about and ban. It is truly a slippery slope that will open up to the company wanting to know how much you drink on the weekends, do you engage in dangerous sexual activity, do you eat too much and how much do you weigh.

    I don’t smoke anymore, but I do carry about 30 extra pounds leftover from pregnancy. Will I be on the chopping block next? I have hormone problems, will that be the next to go?? When I did I sign up for this Nanny state I live in now?

    Ironic thing is – my company sells the products to their customers for profit that they are punishing their possible future employees for legally enjoying.

  45. BETSEY: Crazy isn’t it!! Completely hypocritical but they can do that. Murphy’s Golden Rule: He who has the GOLD makes the rules!

    Sort of like the Tobacco Giant (I can’t remember which one” that runs the “TRUTH” anti-smoking campaign. Go Figure!

  46. Betsey,
    I am glad I don’t work for that company! I have smoked for 22 years (although I am under 35), and thanks to the company I currently work for, I am now over 3 months smoke-free! There is always a dream that someday the world of business will become more empathetic to people who have become targeted due to these “social attacks”.

    I hope weight is not the next social target because I put on an extra 30 pounds too (from quitting smoking!)

  47. Fascists. The lot of you.

    Imagine I do not hire someone because they are fat, because they are ugly, because they don’t go to church, because they do go to church, because their pee smells of asparagus, because they are bald, because they like video games, because they smell like cats, because they eat stinky food, because their name is Adam Hitler and Hitler is a bad name, because they are a woman, because they are a man, because they are gay, because they are straight, because they are a Republican, because they are a Democrat, because they have freckles, because they have blonde hair, because they have an accent, or because they don’t use tobacco.

    Don’t you ever listen to yourselves? Trying to mandate what a person legal does off of the clock in the privacy of their own home. You really should be ashamed of yourselves. Hitler had the same mentality.

    I don’t use tobacco, and I think you all are nuts.

  48. I don’t agree with this based on the fact that how can we say that smoking creates an inability for a qualified person to do their job. Aren’t we hiring based on qualifications? If you are drunk or on drugs, your ability to correctly perform the essential functions of your job are at risk. But smoking? Someone mentioned being overweight – same question if you are qualified for the position you are applying for and can perform the essential functions of the job and are overweight what right do we have to not hire? I don’t think that employers have the right to mandate that you live a certain lifestyle. I’m in HR and I smoke, but I don’t smoke during working hours. Does this mean that I shouldn’t be hired for a job for which I’m qualified?

  49. I am a smoker~I currently work at a facility that is smoke free~I respect that and I do not smoke until it is my lunch break and I am off the clock and off the premesis. I have however found a job that I am very interested in but, they will not hire smokers and do a nicotine test. I do feel that is a little ridiculous to try to mandate what I do on my own time. My insurance will not be on a policy within the company, I have a private policy so it really shouldnt be an issue. Also I do keep perfume and NEVER have I been told that my perfume is too strong or that I reeked of smoke and I work with many non smokers. So as a candidate for a job I know and perform my job well~but will not be giving a chance just because I smoke! I feel that if employers have a ban on smoking that is their option, but, think it should only be banned in the work place and on the premesis. I suppose if it weren’t smoking though they would come up with something else to discriminate against. I do have a tattoo on my ankle and I am unable to wear capris or dresses to work due to no visible tattoos in the work place. I dont like it but I can deal with that policy. I do however have a problem with someone telling me I can’t smoke on my own time. Next employers will be giving us all a list of healthy foods and will be able to test to insure we aren’t eating anything unhealthy!!! I mean come on…..some policies are getting a bit ridiculous.

  50. Kay,

    I am totally picking up what you are putting down! Especially in your 4th paragraph..well said.

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