The University of Pennsylvania Health System, a large teaching hospital system, has announced a new policy under which it will refuse to hire anyone who smokes. Set to go into effect on July 1, the plan will involve asking every new hire whether he or she smokes as part of the interview process. Those caught lying after being hired would face disciplinary action that could include termination.One may be tempted to say that this isn't government but rather a private entity. You would be correct to point this out, but notice the following.
Penn notes that a federal appeals court ruled in 1987 that smokers are not a protected class, although 29 states have laws on the books that prevent hiring decisions from being made based on whether an applicant smokes.Penn based their decision on the legal framework of who is and is not "protected". Notice how the entire idea of "protected class" flies in direct contradiction to "equal protection under the law". Furthermore the actual policy states:
Effective July 1, 2013, the University of Pennsylvania Health System will cease hiring tobacco users in our efforts to improve the overall health of our workforce while reducing health care benefit costs.Ahh... they don't wish to pay for their employee health coverage. Single Payer anyone? But this is the same argument used to ban certain foods and ingredients. It "costs" society x,y or z amount.
Over 50 years of research has proven that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the US, imposing a huge health and financial burden on families and businesses. Employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year for health care. In addition, smoke breaks during work may be disruptive and subject patients/colleagues to the unpleasant smell of smoke on employees' scrubs and clothing (Source: Institute of Medicine, Ending the Tobacco Problem: A Blueprint for the Nation, National Academy of Sciences, 2007).Ahh the financial argument again. Notice the discussion of "smoke breaks". Now how long until non-healthcare companies cite the second hand smoke and 'bad smell" as a reason to let go of or not hire persons? Clearly the hospital could have declared that smoking was prohibited during one's work shift including lunch breaks. After all, people who take trans-Atlantic flights cannot engage in smoking for the entire flight. If they can do it so can health care employees. Not only does the employee (or potential employee) the target but also any relatives that may be covered.
n addition, during our UPHS annual Open Enrollment, employees will be required to complete an attestation regarding their spouse and/or dependents use of tobacco products if they are participating in the UPHS health care benefit plan.Now think about this. What happens when, not if, a company decides that since a potential employee has an obese wife or child that he cannot be employed? After all, if a company can use the status of your wife and/or child in determining whether you should work somewhere, it is not long before one's entire environment can be used against you. I'm a non-smoker and don't care at all for second hand smoke or the smell of tobacco on people. However; I'm not of the opinion that one's employment should be threatened by one's personal habits no matter how nasty I may think it is. I certainly agree with Penn that on premises smoking and the smells on scrubs is something that they should be able to regulate. I certainly do not agree that the so called "economic costs" of someone's personal life should in any way be a determinate of their employment. That is a policy ripe for abuse as anyone who engages in sports can be seen as a high liability. Anyone who rock climbs could be deemed a liability, A person with a high power sports car can be seen as a liability. A person who is sexual promiscuous can be deemed a high cost risk (HIV). This is why single payer healthcare is the way to go. No more companies trying to determine whether they should hire (or fire) you based on what they think their costs are going to be for insurance or what their particular religious affiliation is. And if smokers cost more then they should be made to pay more in premiums if such a thing is actually necessary.