More Hospitals Refuse to Hire Smokers

Recently the Anna Jaques Hospital in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts followed the lead of the Massachusetts Hospital Association in refusing to hire smokers, a move also copied by Saint Francis Medical Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri - ASH
By: Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Nov. 23, 2010 - PRLog -- These three hospitals, and dozens of others which have adopted the same policy years ago, say the primary purpose is because smoking is inconsistent if not totally incompatible with their health mission and image, but they are probably also saving more than $10,000 a year for every smoker not hired, the other reason so many companies are insisting on a smokefree workforce (like a drugfree workforce), says public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

"No one would question the right of an animal rights or anti-gun organization not to hire people who hunt, or the right of a women's rights organization to decline to hire men who attend strip shows nor women who perform in them," says Banzhaf, "so it's somewhat surprising when a few question the right of hospitals and other health organizations not to hire people who engage in an activity which undercuts the organization's image and mission of promoting good health."

Under our free enterprise system, decisions as to whom to hire are wisely left to business owners rather than the government, provided the decisions are not based upon immutable characteristics like race or gender, explains Prof. Banzhaf. Deciding to smoke - or to hunt, shoot guns, or visit strip shows - are behaviors, which is completely different.

Also, notes Banzhaf, the government has ruled that smoking is simply a behavior entitled to no legal protection, whereas obesity has been classified as a "health status" or "disease" sometimes protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA], thereby distinguishing the two health-related factors.

Some states do have laws designed to require employers to hire smokers, but they are full of loopholes, rarely if ever enforced, and both Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), America's first antismoking organization, and the American Medical Association, the nation's premier medical organization, have explained how easy it is to get around these laws and achieve a smokefree workforce regardless of where the business is located.

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 cigarette, suggests Banzhaf.

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

Many non-health-related companies such as Alaska Airlines, the Union Pacific Railroad Company, the Kalamazoo Community College in Michigan, and Weyco, a Michigan-based benefits administration company, have long had written policies against hiring smokers. Other businesses apparently find it easier to have unwritten policies against hiring smokers, or simply give great preference to hiring nonsmokers. "The Cost of Smoking.pdf"

ASH has done a study which shows that a smoking employee can cost his employer more than $10,000 a year in additional 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

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 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 unnecessary expenses 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.

"There is no 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, Executive Director of ASH, which upholds the right of 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

# # #

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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