In defence of smokers

Jul 30 2007 by Derek Torres Print This Article

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.