U.S. City Weighs Ban On Hiring Of All Smokers

Texas considers ban on hiring smokersFor years now, employers have banned smokers from lighting up in the office. But now, with evidence that smokers have higher medical costs, the question is: Should employers ban hiring smokers altogether?

The issue is now center stage in Forth Worth, Texas, where the City Council is considering it this week as it opens debate on a measure that would ban the hiring of any smoker for a city job. Many of the specifics of the ban, such as how the measure would be enforced, and what would happen to current employees who smoke, have yet to be determined. The final proposal on the ban is to be sent to the mayor's office by May 7. But if it were to pass, it would mark the first such ban for a major city in the U.S., according to news reports. A growing number of private employers, mostly hospitals, have begun instituting bans on hiring smokers, says USA Today; if the job applicant's urine tests positive for nicotine use, the application is rejected. Baylor Health Care System, also in Texas, imposed such a ban in January.


Does a smoking ban make fiscal sense?

"Certainly we put taxpayer dollars into health care for our employees, and anything that might benefit the health -- to make our employees more protective and healthy -- we're going to take a look at," Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, a smoker costs an employer about $3,400 more than a nonsmoker in annual health care costs. That number is produced by higher insurance premiums, reduced productivity and absenteeism from the office.

Proponents also argue that the measure could help save lives. After Olmsted, Minn., home to the renowned Mayo Clinic, instituted a countywide workplace smoking ban in 2007, the incidence of heart attacks and sudden cardiac deaths was cut in half, according to a report by the MinnPost.


Is employer discrimination against smokers legal?

There's open debate about whether such measures represent employment discrimination. "It's a very dangerous precedent," Michael Siegel, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health, told USA Today. He says the restrictions punish smokers rather than helping them quit.

The USA Today report notes that 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed smoker-protection laws, but 21 states have no rules against nicotine-free hiring. And federal laws don't treat smokers as a protected class.

There are about half as many smokers in America today as there were in 1965, but smokers who might be affected by the Fort Worth program aren't so thrilled by the prospect.

"I feel like the next thing they want to do is take DNA samples to figure out if anybody is going to have any kind of diseases going forward," Vince Chasteen, president of the city's employee association, told WFAA, a local TV station.



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Laurey Williams

I feel like there could really be a lot of controversy over this topic. I feel bad for people who do smoke if this law is passed. Would they be required to tell their potential employers that they smoke, even if they don't do it around the office? www.durastrip.net

May 16 2014 at 10:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Stacey Beck

I don't smoke and am not a fan of it but I don't think people who do smoke should not get jobs because of it. I feel like that's pushing things a little too far. I do with though that smokers would just realize how bad for their health it is.

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January 28 2014 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
gershep1

How about HIV and AIDS and insurance for worker's obese children? No, not OK to go after them is it?

April 19 2012 at 2:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
imaqwkone

what i think is funny about the cost of smokers health is that i have smoked for over 30 years and only see a doctor to get blood pressure pills. me and my children are rarely sick. umm... i have watched so many "healthy living" non-smokers go to the doctor a whole lot more than i do, take a lot more medicine than i do, and miss more work for illness than i. ps. my kids have perfect attendance, no sick days because as i said they rarely get sick either. i respect others with the no smoking the workplace. i guess my smoking addiction that is perfectly legal, and don't forget the states sued for money to help pay for the expenses of smokers on the healthcare system (but seemed to earmark the money for anything but) and will soon become another "illness" that will have to be covered by social security disability since we are unable to quit and will not be employable. umm...really? and don't give me lectures to try chantix and stuff... did that and couldn't take it.

April 19 2012 at 12:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Reb

If you refuse to hire someone on the grounds that they are a bigger health risk, then obesity (which often brings with it diabetes) should also be included. How about those that have a history of heart problems in their family? Or what about the ones that put away a 6 pack every evening to "unwind"? How can a company refuse to hire someone on the assumption that the employee may or may not eventually be a bigger health risk? To prevent a smoker from smoking on the job or on the premises, even though I don't agree with it, is common practise for many companies. But to not hire someone just because they smoke away from the job? We are getting a little rediculious here, aren't we?

April 18 2012 at 11:54 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
DJ

might as well go after the drinkers to! and the people who tweet and text, we know that these things kill, especially if they have to drive to work! the older i get the more this country disgust me, what
ever happen the the american ideal !!

April 18 2012 at 11:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lstnvlly

More than likely just another reason/excuse to check for pot.

April 18 2012 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
DJ

why stop with smokers, get the fat people, get the people with bad breath and the ones who fart a lot, and the ones who bitch all the time.......like this guy rocker! only allow them to smoke on breaks and lunch!
that would be legal, before i quit my job only allowed it on our breaks and lunch, and all the smokers did just fine.............if they allow this to be legal, i think the smokers should sue them and also make them test blood and dna of the other employees for medical conditions, it's only fair!

April 18 2012 at 11:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jozatexan

That's a great idea as long as ALL drinkers and drug users are also banned.

April 18 2012 at 11:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
morrism462

Once i am off the clock no one has any right to tell my i cant smoke!
are they also going to do drug tests every day on workers? i think drug users waist way more money then a smoker. What about alcholics? Can people go home and come to work the next day with a raging hangover? Also, as others have stated, what about the obese-who sit at thier desks stuffing their faces while on the clock? Are they going to wire tap all phones, to cut back on the cost of personal phone calls?
I can think of many things other then smoking that costs a company big time.
been smoking since i am 16, just had my yearly physical, all is good!
Everything in moderation!!

April 18 2012 at 11:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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