Smoker Beware – NO Jobs Here!

Recently the following was posted on the TMA website.

In an essay published on January 21st in Tobacco Control, Boston University School of Public Health professor and tobacco control advocate Dr. Michael Siegel and University of Washington graduate student Brian Houle say that employer policies prohibiting the hiring of smokers are growing in popularity in the US, but this approach is unfair and may have unintended consequences, as the widespread adoption of such policies may make smokers “nearly unemployable, cause them to lose their health insurance and affect their health and that of their families.” (Los Angeles Times 01/21)


So what do you think?

Do you know of anyone that has been affected by this new form of discrimination? Does your company have policies like this? Are the companies right? Are they wrong?

Are Michael & Brian right in their thoughts?

Is this a stepping stone to other forms of discrimination that go unchecked? Let us know what you think?



#1 Bill Godshall on 02.16.09 at 2:20 PM

As one who actively campaigned (from 1989-1994) with Chambers of Commerce, NFIB and GOP legislative caucuses against cigarette manufacturer sponsored right-to-smoke legislation in all 50 states, I noticed that Siegel/Houle repeated many of the unsubstantiated claims, false analogies and sky-is-falling predictions that were made by cigarette companies more than a decade ago.

A small minority (probably 5%-10%) of employers have had smokefree hiring policies ever since cigarette smoking became fashionable a century ago (e.g. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison).

I’m not going to reargue these issues of employment law here, but will do so again if similar legislation is introduced and advances in a state legislature.

#2 Cowboy Roy on 02.25.09 at 12:14 AM

Gotta love the way you all folks just think government should control you all! I’d just think too many people are noisy bodies. I wonder if any of you ever thought of how this could effect lower paying jobs were more folks smoke. Probably raise the pay rate to compensate for lack of employees.

#3 Rick on 03.02.09 at 9:37 PM

I was reading the attached on your blog roll in the Michael Siegel spot and thought you’d find this a bit ironic.

Friday, February 27, 2009
Northern Territory Medical Association Director Compares Smokers with Pedophiles
The president of the Northern Territory Medical Association has compared smokers to pedophiles, according to an article in the Northern Territory News.

According to the article, the remarks came in the context of the Medical Association president calling for a ban on smokers being employed by the Territory Health Department. He pointed out that smokers would be most inappropriate as employees when working with indigenous Territorians and stated that sending smokers out to work with indigenous people was like allowing convicted pedophiles to work with children:

“Smokers should be discriminated against when applying for jobs with the Territory Health Department, a leading doctor declared yesterday. NT Australian Medical Association president Peter Beaumont said the bias should be strongest when recruiting people to work in Aboriginal communities. He said sending smokers to work with indigenous people was like allowing convicted pedophiles to work with children.”

“Sixty per cent of indigenous Territorians smoke, compared with 17 per cent in the general community. Dr. Beaumont said he didn’t care if his proposal caused a “backlash”. “You wouldn’t send pedophiles to work in an area where there were lots of children,” he said. “Society wouldn’t think there was anything wrong with putting limits on them. “So why shouldn’t we limit people who have a very bad health habit?” Dr. Beaumont said discriminating against smokers in the NT public service would set a good example to the rest of the community.”

The Rest of the Story

The significance of this story is that this statement is coming not from some commenter on a blog (I have seen such comments), but from a physician who is in a leadership position in the medical profession. This individual runs the Northern Territory Medical Association. Thus, in some respects, his statement characterizes the position of all physicians in the Northern Territory.

Discriminating against smokers is the last thing in the world that you would want to do in the NT. Since rates of smoking among indigenous Territorians are extremely high (about 60%), the Medical Association is promoting a position by which the majority of the indigenous community would not be eligible for employment.

There is no reason why smokers as a group should be categorically denied employment in the health field. While you might not want to hire a smoker as a smoking cessation counselor, virtually any other position in the public health field is one for which a smoker could be equally or more qualified than a nonsmoker. By categorically denying employment to smokers, you are ensuring that you will not have the most qualified work force. By definition, then, you will not be able to provide health services most effectively.

Fortunately, the NT Health Minister immediately rejected the Medical Association’s proposal: “We have enough difficulties recruiting health professionals to the Territory. Why would we place further restrictions on them?”

As far as the comparison between smokers and pedophiles, it is a disgusting and despicable comment and a retraction and apology is called for. It is an embarrassment to not only the NT Medical Association, but to physicians everywhere.

#4 Debbie on 03.09.09 at 6:31 PM

I was given a “ticket” because I went outside, across the state line, to have a cigarette at work. It wasn’t a charge at all but, it was a “ticket” that goes to my supervisor and if I get enough of them, I can get fired. There needs to be put in place policies that protect workers from this kind of crap.

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