While discrimination on almost any grounds will quickly see European employers up in front of an employment tribunal, discrimination against smokers is now officially acknowledged to be the exception.
Following a job advert placed by an Irish call centre, Dotcom Directories, which stated that "smokers need not apply", the European Commission has ruled that anti-discrimination laws do not apply to tobacco users.
In a written answer, quoted in the Financial Times, Vladimir Spidla, the commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunities, said: "EU anti-discrimination law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion and belief in employment and other fields.
"A job advertisement saying that 'smokers need not apply' would not seem to fall under any of the above mentioned prohibited grounds."
Philip Tobin, the director of Dotcom Directories, told Irish radio back in May: "If people are smoking on a coffee break or in their own time, they come back into the office and they stink. We have a very small office here and it would make things unbearable for the other staff.
"If these people can ignore so many warnings and all that evidence then they haven't got the level of intelligence that I am looking for. Smoking is idiotic."
The EU ruling only apply to advertising for jobs – so someone cannot be sacked simply for being a smoker, unless they smoke in contravention of workplace rules.
But the environment for smokers is getting ever tougher. This year the World Health Organisation announced it will not hire smokers to work at its Geneva headquarters.
And next year will see England joining Scotland in banning smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces.