In defence of smokers

2007

Earlier this week, I followed with great interest a thread on a mailing list where someone posted a job announcement where one of the job requirements was that the candidate be a non-smoker. The debate, which is active in a number of countries around the world, turned to whether or not this is discrimination.

While many arguments were put forth by the anti-smoking crowd as to why companies should not hire smokers, my view is that this is discrimination pure and simple. Let's review some of the arguments.

Smokers take too many breaks: In my experience, smokers do tend to take more breaks, but shorter ones as well. They don't seem to waste any more of their workday than those who spend their time surfing the internet at work, or making personal phone calls, or responding to flame wars on mailing lists.

Smokers are less productive: I've yet to see a study prove this. Nor can I honestly say that this is true of my own smoking colleagues.

Smokers cost employers more for insurance (US only): So do diabetics, obese employees, those with histories of cancer in the family, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I hate the scent of smoke and how it lingers even when my colleagues return to their desk. However, I'm not quite ready to deprive them of earning a living (time will take care of that) - and neither should you.

Even in cases where smoking is prohibited, the fact that someone smokes doesn't prevent them from doing their job. There are remedies that can be applied to help the smoker through his or her day. Additionally, going off site for a smoke during lunch break would be totally appropriate.

The main concern here is that once discrimination against a particular group is sanctioned, it won't be long until another group is added. Time and time again, man has shown that he always takes a mile, even when given an inch.

Older Comments

The bottom line is that smoking is not a protected class. For discrimination to be discrimination it must, by definition, be based on gender, race, national origin, age, and the other classes deemed to be protected by federal (and state) laws. Anything else, I'm afraid, is fair game when it comes to choosing whether or not to hire or promote someone.

Be sure to check state laws as they often vary and some might include smokers as a protected class. For example, being overweight is a protected class in some states. Maybe smoking is too?

Beth N. Carvin Nobscot Corporation

Great story Derek!

Believe it or not, many hiring managers refuse to hire people that smoke because they say it produces too many problems. I have been in HR for 16 years, and I am the Vice President/Co-Owner of a staffing firm in Illinois.

You have to read a chapter in my book that I just sent to the press that addresses this very issue. My book just went to the news press and several articles are now being written about it. It is called, '25 Reasons Why I Won't Hire You!' Ch. 17 'You Smell Like Cigarettes' discusses why some people do not get hired because they walk into the interview with strong cig. odors.

Of course, the hiring manager thinks that this person is a chain smoker and will want to take smoking breaks all the time. Anyway... my point is this: Great story! It does happen. It is wrong for people to be discriminated against in this area, but the bottom line is that there is something that can be done about it. I discuss all those points in my book.

Take care, and if you want to see the book for free, go to www.25ReasonsWhy.com and download the free chapters.

This is my second blog. I am new to this. I hope I did this correctly.

Z. Glass Vice President www.25ReasonsWhy.com

Z. Glass Illinois

i would not want to work alongside some one that smokes, because the odour repulse me. i could throw up by mere perceiving the odour. not only that i lost someone dear to my heart through smoking.

miriam nigeria

'For discrimination to be discrimination it must, by definition, be based on gender, race, national origin, age, and the other classes deemed to be protected by federal (and state) laws. Anything else, I'm afraid, is fair game when it comes to choosing whether or not to hire or promote someone. ' Federal and state laws do not prohibit the sells of cigarrettes in the United States. So there for, are we not protected? It IS against the law to be on drugs and at work. It is not illegal to smoke, just looked at with a frown. So are we not protected? God has not been protected, and there has been more school shootings and cases in court to keep HIM out! When does it all end? I would have to agree with the fact that, we may smoke, but we tend to live longer then obese people who have heartattacks, and their families get paid by the insurance companies without a second thought! Now insurance premiums are going up just because we smoke? What if you eat to much, do they have to pay extra? Have you ever thought, we smoke because we are stressed out by all the 'high and mighty' people who think they are better then us? I am happy that you live a healthy lifestyle, but that does not give you the right to tell us how to live ours! We are trying to make a living like anyone else and we are getting short changed! YOU have a choice to walk away from a smoker! You can not say that we are destroying a world by smoking in it, when YOU drive a car to work and contribute to the pollution in the same air that WE breath! Do we go after non-smokers for that? We just choose to 'suck-it-in' quicker so we don't have to die from the pollution later! But then again, I thought we had freedom of choice, is that not protected by the goverment? You sure scream that when you want to be heard!

R.U. being discriminated Planet Earth