[E]mployees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year each for health care and lost productivity, according to federal estimates.
“We felt it was unfair for employees who maintained healthy lifestyles to have to subsidize those who do not,” Steven C. Bjelich, chief executive of St. Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Mo., which stopped hiring smokers last month.
That may be a reason to deduct an extra $3391 annually from smokers' paychecks. In light of that option, how could it be a reason to refuse to hire them at all? Perhaps if such a deduction were perceived by hired smokers as "unfair", then employers obviously wouldn't want to have to deal with bitter and resentful employees poisoning the climate in their workplace. But I'm not aware of any evidence that passing on these costs to smokers would cause any such resentment. And in the absence of some such argument for why passing along the cost is not an option, it's just bizarre that cost gets presented as a direct reason not to hire smokers at all.
I think there are significant privacy concerns to consider here, too. It's unsettling whenever employers intrude into our homes and private lives. A liberal society should be more protective of the private sphere of its citizens. If employers are free to inquire into such private details of our lives, we could easily find ourselves effectively barred the option of engaging in legal-but-disapproved-of activities, if refraining from these activities is made a condition of employment. Strong privacy protections can thus be seen as protecting our liberty against undue pressure from those (e.g., employers) with great power over us.