U.S. hospitals ban smokers instead of smoking

Workplaces are increasingly adopting tobacco-free hiring policies


In the U.S., hospitals and medical businesses are increasingly turning away job applicants based on whether or not they smoke as a move to boost worker productivity, cut healthcare costs and promote healthy living, the New York Times reports. These rules treat cigarettes like an illegal narcotic, warning applicants of “tobacco –free hiring.” They are asked to submit to a urine test for nicotine, and anyone caught smoking might be fired. Even anti-tobacco groups are debating these policies, wondering if they set a precedent of employers placing limits on employees’ private lives. More than half the states have laws against bans on smokers, but even so, businesses are adopting them anyway. For example, hospitals in states including Florida, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas stopped hiring smokers, even though about one in five Americans smoke.

New York Times

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U.S. hospitals ban smokers instead of smoking

  1. Okay, urine tests may be going a bit far, but I don't hire smokers either for three simple reasons:

    1. They smell. No offense intended, they can be perfectly well-kept and groomed, but invariably they smell. Often they aren't even aware of it, but I am, and some of my potential non-smoking clients probably are as well. I don't want these clients turned off.

    2. They have smoke breaks. Yes, all workers take breaks, but smokers take them invariably and without fail, pretty much no matter what the immediate needs of the situation are. If I have an important project going that I need my employees' help with, a smoke break can seriously block the flow of that project. A non-smoker is able to work through with me, and is usually happy to be able to leave a bit earlier or be told that they can have the next morning off.

    3. Health costs. They tend to need more sick days. Not all of them, but it's a tendency I've noticed, and I prefer to avoid it where I can.

    • Thwim…I understand what your saying, but I am curious……Has anyone ever cried '' discrimination '' or anything for not hiring them because they smoke ?

      • No. Nor am I terribly worried about it either, not only because the not-hired letter doesn't give reasons, but also because hiring is such a subjective thing, there can always be reasons why one person might get hired over another.

        Also, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation aren't factors in the hiring process, and those are the ones people tend to get most upset about.

        • My sentiments exactly….

          • So if you feel justified in discriminating against people for lifestyle issues then how exactly do you differentiate between that "acceptable" form of discrimination and the evil of religious discrimination? Religion is also a choice, after all.

          • If you were to have read the last part of Thwim's post, you would seen that the topic of Religion etc, had been addressed already…….

          • It's been addressed only to the extent that it's been dismissed as irrelevant. I'm curious as to why Thwim's attitude towards smokers is acceptable to you when – presumably – discrimination on the basis of differing religious beliefs would not be.

            I'm not trying to be coy, I think Thwim's attitude and his professed actions are wrong.

          • Point taken…

    • In my position as one of a team of managers, the smokers are the ones who put in most of the extra effort and extra hours. Their smoking breaks more often than not function as mini-scrums and strategy sessions for the day. And they actually miss less work than the non-smokers.

      Should we only hire smokers from now on?

      • I would bet you have more smokers than non, yes?

        We're the other way around.

        • We do, in fact. And the non-smokers often come to take part in the smoke breaks, so we all stink anyway. :p

      • Thank you for your honesty, I had less than 5 days off sick in over 20 years, I never took "Mondays" off for being hungover.
        I left that too the smokers and non-smokers alike.
        Smokers cannot hire only "smokers" in the hospitality trade because they have been "BANNED" from doing so in many Countries.
        For those who are checking urine samples, well that sure as hell is going backward, who the hell would want to work with them sort of people.
        Tomato, potato and many other vegatables come form the same family of plants as tobacco and also contain "nicotine" some tea also contains "nicotine" so will the "pee tester" make allowances for that!!
        Are we going back to the "blond hair, blue eyed children" era? propaganda is such an evil tool to use against the people.

        • Hey, did you see the Seinfeld episode where Elaine ate a lemon poppyseed muffin and her urine returned positive for opium? LOL

    • So I'm guessing that women might not get hired because they have that nasty habit of getting pregnant.

      • LOL

        Selena see the the truth of the thing and instantly gets voted down.

        Compare Thwim's original post to the recent case of the woman who almost lost her home for the sin of remarking about the smell of an employee's food.

        • You know I was thinking the same thing Selena and Igarvin. First, with regard to the pregnancy thing – I worked for a city department that made you pay out your share of your beneefits before you went on maternity leave. So, the day you were going on Mat leave you gave them $1000.00 cash so you could use your dental/medical etc. while you were on leave. You had no option to opt out of the benefits and they gave you no "heads up" ahead of time. Finally someone challenged the rule. It went to court and what do you know they were not allowed to do it anymore.
          Then I was wondering about the food thing. Does Thwim ask his prospective employees if they eat garlic. I have to say that sometimes the smell of someone who indulges heavily in garlic is much more offensive than the cigarette smoking.
          All of these things come down to a lack of tolerance. I work in mental health. Can you imagine telling Thwim you have schizophrenia. I am sure he would just jump on hiring you…as long as you don't smoke.

    • Agreed! Smokers stink! Their voices change as the tar builds up in their lungs. Their breathing gets more difficult.
      I feel very sorry for them. They stand out in the cold, and suck away at a tiny enemy that does huge damage to their bodies. I lost two members of my family due to addictive smoking, and it was very difficult to watch! I miss them!

  2. Can they refuse homosexuals for the same reason. They may get AIDS? Interesting how politically correct issues are okay but incorrect ones are taboo. No one seems to care how much cocaine you suck down. Personally, I like to discriminate against joggers because it is an addiction and most of them get ruined knees which increases my health costs and lessens their produocitivity.

    • Jeet,, I would hire a Jogger before I would hire a smoker…even though they both seem to (as Thwim also said ) smell…..

    • "No one seems to care how much cocaine you suck down."

      I believe that in the US at least, they test for that substance as well. And by the way, AIDS is hardly a gay-only disease any more. You seem to be living in the 80s.

      • While you're technically correct, it's still the preponderance of cases. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/surveillance/basic….
        (77% of the prevalence among cases in men – 57% if you include all female cases and intravenous drug use cases)

    • Yeah, except they don't. Joggers, bikers, or really anybody who gets out there and does something physical regularly tend to have fewer sick days than the norm. Try sticking to reality and your arguments might have more merit.

      • -They may be more prone to injuries, depending on the activity
        -The health difference between people that regularly engage in light physical activity and extensive activity is small (eg. life expectancy for a moderately active 65 year old is 83 vs. 82 for a moderately active one).
        -light exercise routines are much easier to sustain given a demanding job
        -Being active takes away time and energy that could be spent working overtime (plus being ceteris paribus, more attractive, they may have more engaging personal lives that take away yet more of their attention), or on leisure activities that amplify work-relevant skills (most office jobs require a lot more reading, surfing the internet, etc. than they do running).

        • Sorry, 83 for highly active and 82 for moderately (this is assuming they don't smoke)

    • Or maybe refuse young people, with their loud rock music and Ipods. Or people with yellow teeth. Gross!

  3. This move does not reflect the evidence on productivity. In 1999 a study ("The Role of Health Risk Factors and Disease on Worker Productivity" Journal of Occupational Medicine) was conducted (they focused on workers in a pharmaceutical firm) on various risk factors for illness and productivity loss with a focus on their impact on total time lost (either through lower productivity, illness absences and standard absences.

    Here is the outcome for each risk factor, and whether they were related to a statistically significant increase in time lost (***99% confidence level, **, 95% confidence level, *90% confidence level):
    Current Smoker: not significant
    Physically inactive*
    Substance abuse: not significant
    Encountered violent events: not significant
    High blood pressure: not significant
    Cholesterol: not significant
    BMI at risk***

    So if hospitals want to weed out potentially unproductive workers, they should hire the chain-smoking coke addict over the fat diabetic.

    And for the record, while I agree that smokers smell and should probably quit for health reasons, I would rather not live in a world where our lifestyle choices are selected by our employers (particularly about factors that do not correlate with lower productivity). This is probably a pandora's box we don't want to open (but inevitably will as the information age erodes our privacy):
    -"Mr. Perkins, we checked the history of your home computer thanks to our handy tracking cookies. We've found that look at porn in their spare time are 12% more likely to be the source of sexual harassment suits…"
    -"I'm sorry Ms. Jenkins, but our assessment of your facebook page suggests that you are a slut, and if we hire you, it is only a matter of time before you get pregnant and go on maternity leave.
    -"At ABC corp we have nothing against hiring black people, we just think frizzy hair is unprofessional".

  4. So,are they banning drivers next?

  5. I don't believe that any truly successful business owner/manager would over-look a great candidate for a job because they happen to smoke. The most exceptional person I ever worked with, bar none, happened to smoke. President Obama happens to smoke…you wouldn't hire Barrack Obama? I have never smoked but I know how addictive it is. I also know that there are more and better aids to help people quit but it is a difficult process. Next, the hospitals won't be hiring the obese and over-weight.

    • No, I would not hire President Obama. As for smokers, although I do not smoke nor like the smell of cigarrettes or tobacco due to allergies, it is a slippery slope to start hiring or not hiring people due to that. I usually go for merit, experience, and reference.

      • You may not like Barrack Obama's politics but he is a brilliant community organizer….my point was that the most powerful man in the world happens to have the unfortunate habit… It does define who a person is or what they are capable of and anyone who make a decision never to hire a person who happens to smoke is not a smart business person.

  6. From an ex-smoker.

    Read this week in the news that there may be a case where appartments building owners may refuse to rent to smokers because the smell stays, even after painting. Fair enough.

    Now we are talking about taking jobs away or not giving them the jobs to start with. That is pretty mean but I can see from the employer's point of view..if the person is on break several times a day….

    But the thing that really gets me going is that it is still a product legally sold in the stores. We have adopted the ''we will harass you until you die'' attitude instead of taking the product off the shelves.

    It would be nice to see some leadership on this issue from the government instead of making some of the citizens feel like dirt.

  7. The anti-smokers commit flagrant scientific fraud by ignoring more than 50 studies which show that human papillomaviruses cause at least 1/4 of non-small cell lung cancers. Smokers and passive smokers are more likely to have been exposed to this virus for socioeconomic reasons. And the anti-smokers' studies are all based on lifestyle questionnaires, so they're cynically DESIGNED to blame tobacco for all those extra lung cancers that are really caused by HPV. And they commit the same type of fraud with every disease they blame on tobacco.
    http://www.smokershistory.com/hpvlungc.htm http://www.smokershistory.com/SGHDlies.html

    For the government to commit fraud to deprive us of our liberties is automatically a violation of our rights to the equal protection of the laws, just as much as if it purposely threw innocent people in prison. And for the government to spread lies about phony smoking dangers is terrorism, no different from calling in phony bomb threats.

    • Okay CarolT, according to you and your study HPV has accounted for 1/4 of non-small cell lung cancers……let's go onto the other lung cancers, emphysema, heart disease and the host of illnesses that smoking cigarettes is directly linked to. It is a death delivery system all neatly delivered to you in a tiny tube. If the tobacco companies could disprove ANY of the claims made by scientists and physicians and our government, do you think they would be printing the claims on their packaging. There was an article in the newspaper a couple of years ago. The tobacco industry was putting around a story that smokers actually cost the healthcare system less money that non-smokers. Their argument was that smokers die younger due to smoking related illness, thereby saving the system dollars. Even they don't bother arguing that their product doesn't kill people.

      • That isn't merely one "study," that's more than 50 of them. Your charlatans commit the same type of fraud about every single disease they blame on smoking. Use the links, that's what they're there for. Only a retardate would claim that it must not be true because the tobacco companies would fight them. The anti-smokers took them over, because they're rich people and that's what rich people do. And your smoking cost "studies" are a flagrant fraud because they pretend costs paid by smokers were paid by non-smokers and that non-smokers' health costs don't exist at all, and blamed diseases caused by infection on smoking. And you're all such warped psychopaths that you pretend that honesty is lies.

        • I never said that there was only one study. I know you believe what you are saying is true. I honestly hope you stay healthy.

          • Don't pretend you "care" when you eagerly believe vicious lies and defamations, and couldn't care less about the corruption of science. It proves you don't have an honest bone in your body.

  8. In my work experience, even when smoking is banned from an office building there will always be one person who thinks they are the exception and can smoke on a balcony or in their office with the door closed. They have no idea how their smoke spreads around the office or into other offices through the ventilation system. It's usually someone fairly high up in the pecking order, so if you're a support worker you can't do much about it but say, "I'm asthmatic and can't tolerate smoke," which is true in my case, and hope they won't tell you to get lost. I'm sooooo glad I'm retired and don't have to deal with this issue any more.

    • Heavy perfume and perfumed hair products are also hazardous to some people.

  9. As for all the subhuman scum whose trump card is proclaiming that smokers stink, that's the same load of swill the racists have always spouted about the people they victimize so you are the same kind of mental defectives that they are.

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