Monday, January 9, 2012

Up in Smoke

It's early in the morning
'bout a quarter to three
I'm sitting here talking to my baby
Over cigarettes and coffee

Ah, Otis Redding. Really speaks to the soul. Unless, that is, you want to hold a job with the new order of organizations now refusing to employ smokers.

From Workplaces ban not only smoking, but smokers themselves

As smokers are corralled out of parks, bars, stadiums, theaters, and virtually any public place imaginable into back alleys (provided they are at least 10 feet from the entrance of any establishment), the groaning lament of tobacco enthusiasts is eclipsed only by the clamoring of still more regulations to be put in place.

And that is exactly what is happening with the new practices that are starting to be used in the health care sector in regards to hiring their employees. Deciding that forbidding smoking while on the clock is no longer enough, several hospitals have declared that any employee who tests positive for nicotine in a urine test will not be eligible for employment. While popular among hospitals, these regulations are also finding homes in other fields. The new Hollywood Casino in Toledo, OH will be enforcing a no-smoker hiring policy when it opens this year, and the Alaskan Air Lines corporation has had such a policy in place for a decade and a half.

As the line goes, the new-found popularity of these bans of smoking employees is not an attack on workers liberty, but an attempt to curb the negative effects of long-term smoking. The article quotes the CDC as saying that "each year, smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke causes 443,000 premature deaths and costs the nation $193 billion in health bills and lost productivity".

Right. I have no idea how one calculates "lost productivity", but I am certain it's a rigorous and scientific process.

In defense of the regulations, Marcy Marshall of the Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa has said "We're trying to promote a complete culture of wellness. We're not denying smokers their right to tobacco products. We're just choosing not to hire them." Fair enough. I suppose that is your prerogative as an employer. However, like nearly every other recommendation that receives attention in the political arena, the ban on employing smokers is a slippery slope to friendly fascism.

After all, if the concerns here are for lowering the cost of health insurance for employers, then how long before the morbidly obese are refused employment based on the same grounds? Or maybe the overly-caffeinated? Someone in the comments section of the article makes the point that she already works for an employer who refuses to hire women who have children, as he refuses to cover the additional time off many parents require to care for their children. Sounds a little cold-hearted, doesn't it?

Why jump straight to the option of barring employment to smokers, though? Why not instead add an extra deduction from their paycheck to cover the costs of smoking, if that is indeed what your adult employee chooses to do? It's the same opinion I have with state-sanctioned bans on smoking in privately owned establishments. Why not give a bar owner the option to choose if they would like to allow smoking or not in their place of business? Seems to me like a few too many choices are being made for us in this land of the free.

Three Monkeys Say: It should be illegal to listen to this song without a lit cigarette!!

No comments:

Post a Comment