Smokers Need Not Apply

I quit smoking more than 10 years ago, but I can still remember the feeling of being ostrasized when the first no-smoking laws passed in California. It was bad enough to be banished outside when you wanted a cigarette, though I used to joke that “you meet the nicest people outside.” Actually, you do: Generally speaking, smokers would never banish someone for a having a bad habit – because we understand that it’s a habit, not easy to break.

The news this morning, though, is that not just smoking but the smokers themselves are now being refused work – and in some cases, are submitted to urine tests for nicotine and threatened with being fired if traces of nicotine show up.

In other words, these employers have found a new form of discrimination, apparently legal in many states. Luckily, 29 states have passed laws against this form of discrimination, due to lobbying from “strange bedfellows”: the ACLU, and the tobacco companies. Strangely, too, hospitals are leading this bad trend.

From the New York Times article: “If enough of these companies adopt theses policies and it really becomes difficult for smokers to find jobs, there are going to be consequences,” said Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, who has written about the trend.

The main consequence he fears: “Unemployment is also bad for health.”

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