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Are Jobs for Tobacco Users Going Up in Smoke?

Do you think it’s fair for a potential employer to pass on hiring you just because you’re a smoker? Do you think it should be against the law for your boss to fire you because you use tobacco? The trend toward using a person’s smoking and non-smoking status as a factor in the hiring and termination decisions, may have gotten its start in some hospitals and health care businesses, but it’s apparently on the rise in other industries as well. 
Hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic and Crittenton Hospital Medical Center in Rochester, N.Y., have made it a policy only to hire non-tobacco users. Other health care companies have followed suit some even require that employees take a smoking breath test.
The American Cancer Society and American Lung Association obviously don’t hire tobacco users. But other organizations such as Kalamazoo Valley Community College, some police forces in Ohio and Ohio-based Scotts Miracle-Gro have also adopted non-smoker hiring policies. Even Union Pacific hires only non-smokers in states where it can do so legally.
More and more companies are insisting that not only do smokers waste company time and resources for cigarette breaks as well as bothering non-smokers, but also the cost to insure tobacco users is much higher than the cost to insure those who don’t smoke. Some companies are even passing along an additional $50 to $100 health insurance surcharge per month to employees who smoke.
But workers’ rights advocates argue that an employer has no right to dictate what an employee can and can’t do in their own, personal, off-work time. In fact, there are 29 states in the United States that have made it illegal to discriminate against tobacco users. Smaller companies with fewer employees  and that number varies by state are free to set their own non-smoking policies. An estimated 20.6 percent of U.S. adults smoke, according to the Detroit News.


By Lisa Johnson Mandell

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