Smokers need not apply

There is no doubt that there is a direct relationship between cigarette smoking and health problems that include cancer and heart attacks and strokes. In an attempt to minimize health care costs, Delray Beach, a city in Florida now has an official policy that smokers will not be hired for municipal positions.

The City Commission is expected to make official today a

Ybor City cigar factory c. 1920

non-smoker policy that took effect Monday. The city will no longer hire employees who regularly use tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, snuff or pipes.

Smokers can cost a company or government agency an average of $12,000 a year in health and disability-related costs.

The City Commission, except for Commissioner Angeleta Gray, agreed to move forward with the policy in July, saying that in tough budget times this was an easy way to save money and the right thing to do in terms of promoting healthy lifestyles among city employees.

While on the surface, it seems to be a great way for the city to save money on health care, it opens the door for the city to avoid hiring anyone with¬† pre-existing medical condition.¬† For example, I am currently being treated for both mental illness and cardiac problems. Even though I don’t smoke, the potential is there for someone like me to cost even more than a smoker.

Employees hired before Oct. 1 are exempt from the policy, but the city encourages all employees to take advantage of several smoking cessation classes offered throughout the year.

The city also charges a premium to the medical insurance premiums of employees who smoke, but offers free prescription medication to quit smoking.

I am very much in favour of employers encouraging healthy lifestyles for employees. I am very much against such discriminatory hiring practices.

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3 Responses to Smokers need not apply

  1. I agree with you, whilst I am in favour of offering smoking cessation programmes, I think that it is a dangerous road to go down (even though I hate slippery slope arguments). Even if you don’t take into account other pre-existing conditions, there are many who feel that, say, alcohol has a detrimental effect on workers.

  2. Smoking impacts other employees. There are no positive, productive or healthy reasons for an individual to choose to smoke. In my opinion, requiring an applicant to be a non-smoker is no different than requiring an applicant to be able to lift forty pounds or stand on their feet all day. When hiring to fill positions in a non-smoking workplace, it makes perfect sense to me that candidates be non-smokers.

    • How does one define a smoker? Would you be eligible for employment if you enjoyed a cigar a couple of times or had a two or three cigarettes a month while out with friends?
      How can they determine how honestly people answer this question on their application? If I say I am not a smoker, and only smoke at home, how can they tell? I am not defending smokers, or disputing the cost, I am saying that it is impossible to enforce (something I did not say in my original post) and it makes me ask the question–which disabilities or lifestyle choices are next?

      I, like skepticalsquirrel, am not a fan of slippery slope arguments, but in this case, it really seems to apply.

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