I watched a documentary on a major US network a few months back about a company that decided to only employ non-smokers. Those who smoked were given notice about the decision and an opportunity to quit by a certain date. I think the majority of the smoking staff managed to cease smoking, minus a few ladies who are now out of work. Apparently this is legal for an employer to do in some states.
I find it really difficult to digest. Although I applaud any company wishing to help their employees overcome their addictions, I believe the bottom line in this case is about profit (saving money on health care costs often associated with smoking) and not really about helping people at all. Also, smoking is legal (also heavily taxed), so how can an employer fire you for behaviour that is acceptable by law? I understand that the times have changed and cigarettes are now viewed as reprehensible – think back to the 1970s when your folks could smoke a cigarette in mall walkways in relation to where you can smoke today – but an offense worthy of losing your career?
If the decision not to employ smokers is about health care, I’d like to suggest that everyone will get sick one day from one thing or another whether you smoke or not. Eventually we all rely on our health care plans (HMO in the US or in Canada our government system) in one way or another – long-term, short-term – only time can tell. I worry that firing smoking employees will open the door to terminating employment for other activities that may be considered risky or leading to disease – sports, alcohol consumption, inactivity, unhealthy eating… Which makes me wonder about overweight employees. Surely one could correlate obesity to a myriad of costly diseases: diabetes, heart disease, strokes, etc… Does this give an employer the right to dismiss a fat employee?
If this is about the extra breaks smokers tend to take in a day, then I can support a smoke-free workplace initiative in which it’s requested that you do not smoke during business hours. I read once that smokers take about 5 mins per hour every hour in breaks. Well, that’s 40 mins a day which could result in a REAL loss to a company.
But to say you cannot smoke EVER is problematic. Can you say BIG BROTHER? I believe what you do after work on your own time is your own business, especially a legal activity such as smoking, and it frightens me that our places of work may have say over this very personal domain.
The reason I’m thinking about this, I went to sign up for a Zip.ca account on recommendation of a friend and out of curiousity I went to visit their parent company – Momentous.ca – and I noticed that their job listings are all for non-smokers.
It makes me wonder what their motivation is.