Friday, September 14, 2012

No Smokers?

Increasing numbers of hospitals (ht: Alex) are apparently implementing bans on the hiring of smokers -- even those who merely smoke in the privacy of their own homes.  The most common justification offered is economic:
[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.


  1. Doesn't this also incentivize lying about one's smoking habits then? Bad idea all around.

  2. Certainly the employers are able to pick out the employees they see best all around choices for their company.

    I see the two (employer - employee) as separate, and when the employee is applying to a company, he or she is the initiating one, trying to fit into their norms and conducts. The employee, then, is the one who needs to change their way to fit the employer's ideals. Deducting the extra costs from the smokers' paychecks would be too radical a decision for such a public facility as the hospitals.

    I see a larger reason which is for the hospitals to act as kind of an "example" to the society. Everyone knows smoking is, ultimately, useless but with great hazards. I see this as a subtle beginning of change to that direction of being an example.

  3. People have the free will to do what they want. So therefore why should smokers be penalized?


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