U-Haul's Nicotine Policy More Than Justified But
The Policy Is Both Too Board and Too Narrow, Says Legal Expert
The best estimate of the costs associated with hiring smokers came in a case in which Banzhaf participated. After hearing evidence, a judge ruled that a typical smoking employee costs his employer over $12,000 each and every year (in 2019 dollars).
Banzhaf suggests that health care costs may be even higher because the spouses of smokers are more likely to be smokers themselves, and everyone in the household is typically exposed to tobacco smoke pollution which kills almost over 40,000 nonsmoking Americans each year, and causes far more serious illnesses, expensive hospitalizations, etc.
The law is also clear that, in the absence of specific legislation, both private employers and even governmental bodies may decline to hire smokers since being a smoker is not a legally protected factor like race, sex, etc., notes Banzhaf.
U-Haul says that it will not apply the policy in states which have laws protecting smokers' employment, but both Banzhaf and the AMA have shown that such laws may not apply in this situation.
Some, for example, only prohibit companies from making "no smoking" a condition of employment, and do not prohibit paying smokers less, providing them with fewer benefits, etc. Indeed, some states specifically permit companies to charge smokers more for insurance, thereby providing a simple tactic to avoid hiring smokers, or of making them pay their fair share of the added costs of employing them.
Also, some smoker statutes apply only to state employees, leaving private companies free to not hire smokers. Other statutes apply to and protect only current employees, permitting companies to adopt a "no smokers" policy for future hires.
Another proven way to avoid the enormous costs smokers impose on their employer and nonsmoking employers is to adopt a rule prohibiting employees from coming to work with any detectable odor of tobacco smoke on their persons.
At the same time, suggests Banzhaf U-Haul's new policy is too broad because it apparently prohibits employees from using nicotine gum and patches to help them quit smoking, even though there is no evidence that such FDA-approved products cause illness or add to medical costs.