MA Hospital Assn Refusing to Hire Smokers, Will Slash Costs

The Massachusetts Hospital Association is the latest in a growing number of business and governmental bodies refusing to hire applicants who smoke - a move which could save them more than $10,000 a year for every nonsmoking person they employ
By: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Nov. 5, 2010 - PRLog -- The Massachusetts Hospital Association [MHA] is the latest in a growing number of business and governmental bodies refusing to hire applicants who smoke - a move which could save them more than $10,000 a year for every nonsmoking person they employ - says Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), the organization which has pioneered and promoted the right of companies to slash their costs with such policies.

Insisting upon a smoke-free workforce, similar to a drug-free workforce, is nothing new, and is certainly not restricted to health organizations, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, Executive Director of ASH, nothing that the Alexandria (VA) fire department adopted such a policy more than thirty years ago, and that many governmental bodies likewise have similar rules.

Today, organizations as diverse as Alaska Airlines, the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Kalamazoo Community College in Michigan, and Weyco, a Michigan- based benefits administration company, have written policies against hiring smokers, and many more companies apparently have unwritten policies against hiring smokers, or simply give great preference to hiring nonsmokers. of Smoking.pdf

Many courts have held that, in the absence of specific laws directed specifically at the issue, it is lawful for companies - and both lawful and constitutional for governmental bodies - to refuse to hire smokers.

Moreover, although many states have laws purporting to prohibit alleged "discrimination" against smokers in employment, both ASH and the American Medical Association [AMA] have reported that there are many easy ways to get around them.

For example, notes Banzhaf, one company in a state with such a law simply prohibits anyone from setting foot on its property if they have any discernible odor of tobacco smoke on their person.  Thus, although a smoker could theoretically be employed there, he would probably have to shower, completely change clothing, shampoo his hair, and brush his teeth after every smoke, suggests Banzhaf.

Other companies simply prohibit smoking anywhere on their property - including even in private cars on parking lots - thereby likewise making it virtually impossible for daily smokers to remain employed

ASH has done a study which shows that a single smoking employee can cost his employer more than $10,000 a year more in health care costs, increased disability payments, time lost from work, decreased productivity, and other expenses - costs which might otherwise have to be paid by the great majority of employees who do not smoke in the form of fewer medical benefits and/or higher health insurance premiums.$12000

In a related development, a recent study shows that smokers tend to waste a hour a day on additional smoking breaks, but that employers are beginning to crack down, either prohibiting such breaks or forcing workers to clock out while smoking on company time.

Companies are increasingly taking a variety of measures to slash the huge and totally unnecessary costs smoking imposes on their businesses, says Banzhaf, noting that almost half of all large companies already penalize employees' unhealthy behaviors, and that many more are moving to do so.

It also appears that there is growing public support for penalizing smokers, especially as nonsmokers begin to realize that smoking costs the American economy almost $200 billion a year, and that most of that cost is borne by nonsmokers in the form of higher taxes (e.g., for costs under Medicare and Medicaid) and bloated health insurance premiums.

Fortunately, the new health care reform legislation permits charging smokers 50% more than nonsmokers for health insurance, a provision ASH helped to insure was part of this legislation.  Many companies, as well as about a dozen states, are already doing so.

"There is no legal, moral, or ethical right to smoke, and smokers certainly have no right to force the great majority of Americans who are nonsmokers to bear the huge and totally unnecessary costs of their habit," concludes Banzhaf, who encourages companies and governmental bodies to take steps to prevent this manifest unfairness.

Professor of Public Interest Law at GWU,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
FELLOW, World Technology Network, and
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
America’s First Antismoking Organization
2013 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006, USA
(202) 659-4310 // (703) 527-8418

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Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first anti-smoking and nonsmokers' rights organization, serves as the legal action arm of the anti-smoking community. It is supported by tax-deductible contributions.
Source:Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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Tags:Smoking, Employment, Discrimination, Banzhaf, Hiring, Policy, Health Care Reform, Costs, Disability, Medicare, Medicaid
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