Poll: Would You Support an Employer Ban on Smokers?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Most companies these days have policies against smoking: smokers must light up in designated areas, many pay higher health care premiums, etc. Companies do their best to discourage smoking among their employees, but some say these efforts just aren't enough. Hospitals and medical businesses in a number of states are adopting policies to turn away applicants who smoke. If you're a smoker, you won't be hired in an effort to reduce company health care costs and increase worker productivity. Is that going too far?

Supporters say these policies are becoming more mainstream. Job applicants are subjected to urine tests for nicotine, and if new employees are caught smoking, they are terminated. These companies say the policy supports their mission to improve the well-being of their staff and reduce health care costs. For perspective, "About 1 in 5 Americans still smoke, and smoking remains the leading cause of preventable deaths. And employees who smoke cost, on average, $3,391 more a year each for health care and lost productivity, according to federal estimates." Because smokers drive up health care costs, those trying to live a healthy lifestyle also pay the price.

These policies are being challenged in court. Opponents are afraid this could lead to policies against alcohol, riding a motorcycle, eating fast food, or other personal habits that could be considered "high risk". Where do you draw the line? Because a higher percentage of smokers are lower income, this kind of ban is likely to punish more blue-collar workers, many of which might already be struggling in this economy to find a job. According to one expert, "Unemployment is also bad for health."

Another issue becomes what to do with existing employees. There are a few examples of companies instating a "quit or be fired" policy, but for the most part, these companies are only applying the policies to new hires.

What do you think?

Would you support an employer ban on smokers?

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LEANJEAN6 1/16/2018
I would support that for sure! Report
LEANJEAN6 11/25/2017
I definitely would support a ban! Report
I think it should just be easier to get rid of someone who is not doing their work because of cigarettes instead of banning the legal drug in itself. If they go to work smelling like an ashtray or if they are sneaking out of work for a smoke, fire them.

I can't see giving urine tests for nicotine, which is a legal drug. Insurance companies invented the BMI (Body Mass Index) to measure healthy weights, so should people who are not within the right BMI be denied employment, many of whom are otherwise healthy or can't lose weight?

I hate cigarettes, but do hard-working smokers deserve a job? Would you rather have a smoker who works to pay his/her own bills or a smoker who is forced to take YOUR tax money to pay for their public housing, food program and other benefits? Report
I'm not sure some people got the point of the article. It's not asking if you agree with banning smoking in the working place, it's asking if you agree with hiring someone because they don't smoke and turning someone away if they do. I disagree, even though I am a non smoker, because I think these are personal choices and people shouldn't be penalized for them. What if this article was about not employing people because they had a genetic disease like cystic fibrosis that meant they would be off alot. Should companies be allowed to deny them a job? Or if they had a disabled member of the family that needed alot of care? Or because of the amount of junk food they ate? Not too sure I like this. Report
While I understand completely everybody has the right to choose what they wish to do, I would personally love it if smoking were banned completely in all public areas. I have chronic asthma and am also allergic to the smoke from cigars and cigerettes and don't appreciate having to wear face masks while I try and walk through town. It's embarrassing to walk around in public with the mask because other people don't stop to think about the lives and health of others and what the smoking could be doing to the other people nearby. There actually was a ban in this state where people are not supposed to smoke within 15ft of any public entrance or inside public buildings but it's not enforced and people are able to get away with doing so still.

As for smoking at work, I would go for a ban. Due to my health, if I can find a job in the future I don't want my health put at risk at work because others feel the need to smoke nearby. :( Report
Some say "It's wrong to pose one's beliefs on others" and it's not a good idea to ban smoking! But...if I choose to be a Non-Smoker, don't I have the right to walk about this world and not have my rights violated by having smoke blown in my face?

Asking people to smoke in their own homes or away from public - is much less restricting, then asking a non-smoker to hold their breathe when in public, wouldn't you say?

I have a hard enough time trying to enjoy smoke-free places with my children "like the pool, Sea World, the park" - without having "others beliefs/rights imposed on us". It's hard to try to raise your family healthy and choose to live a healthy life-style, when others are impossing their bad habits on you - without your consent. I'm all about rights and liberties, but there are times and places to practice those rights and liberties. Report
I think it is wrong! to enforce one's beliefs on to another person. We all have habits we need to work on - so for someone to say "THIS IS WRONG". They better look in the mirror and see what "IS WRONG" in their life and focus on that. I understand that smoking increases costs of health care,ect. You cannot make people do something they dont want to do. Report
I think its one thing for employees to pay higher insurance premiums or to smoke in certain areas , but to fire someone for lighting up is too far. At some point they could take it to firing someone that's overweight who will not stop eating fast food. At some point you have to draw the line. Report
I work at such a place. My pre-employment screening also tested for tobacco. I support this effort.

Regarding those who are already employed: they are not at risk of losing their jobs, it only applies to new hires.

Is this a slippery slope? I don't think so, as tobacco is the only product that, when used properly, can kill it's users. Other things, like fast food and alcohol can be used in moderation with little ill effects. It's our choice to use or abuse...but with tobacco, it is only harmful. Report
I don't care if people hate me, I think smoking in general should be banned. I hate cigarette smoke, I hate second hand smoke, and I think it's horrible children have to be subjected to it from parents who don't care. I don't want my nurse or doctor smelling like cigarettes.

Smoking doesn't just affect the smoker, it affects everyone else that breathes it in, around or on the person!!! WHY does my health have to suffer from someone else's health??? WHAT are MY RIGHTS to CLEAN AIR? Report
I have 1 cigarette in the morning before work and one in the evening after I get off work. I am very good at my job, I do not take excessive breaks and I never get sick. This policy would have me lose my job. Let me tell you, I am one of the top analysts in the country for the type of job I do and I get paid accordingly. So it would really not be in my company's interest to fire me! Report
I would like for my smoker co-workers to have to sit and work the same amount of hours as those of us who don't smoke BUT this is a slippery slope. What's next? If you have body fat that equals a certain amount or above - you need not apply? I went for years being the heaviest and the least sickly of all 26 employees. And until last week I had pretty much regained my title (and the one for being oldest...) after a little 4 month bout of hysterectomy/gall bladder/cataract/heart problem 2 years ago. I see a future with only the "chosen" being hired. Report
I do not agree with the way that society is treating smokers at this point.
I'm an ex-smoker. I quit a little less than 5 years ago. I did it not for health reasons or because I wanted to live longer or for the sake of my loved ones. I wish I could say that was my motivation, but it wasnít. I did it because the cost of gas had risen high enough that I only had two options: quit smoking and continue to pay for the gas that allowed me to get to and from work, or continue smoking and end up unemployed, which would mean I couldnít afford to continue smoking anyway.
When I was a smoker, I was prone to approximately annual bouts of bronchitis, and more regular cases of strep throat. Iíd been prone to both since long before I ever started smoking, though. Since I quit, Iíve developed chronic sinusitis (up to and including requiring surgery, with limited success), ear infections (Iíd never had one before I quit; now I get several a year), frequent cases of pneumonia, MASSIVE tension and chronic pain issues due to a lack of outlet for my accumulated stress (that have led to months of physical therapy and three cortisone shots to my spinal cord)Ö my health problems since quitting smoking are legion. Far, far worse than anything I suffered before I quit. Oh, and my thyroid quit working, as well. Thereís some question as to whether it conked out while I was still smoking, and the stimulants in the nicotine kept things moving regardless and hid the problem, or whether quitting led to the problem. They were nearly simultaneous, so thereís no way to tell.
Now, I freely admit that itís possible, even likely, that if Iíd never started smoking in the first place, a good amount of these things might not have happened to me. But I also think that itís not entirely fair to say that current smokers are THAT big a drain on the healthcare system, since it wasnít till I gave in to the pressure to quit that I became such a medical financial disaster!
You want to demonize cigarettes? Fine. Make them illegal. Thatís really the only choice. If youíre going to make it impossible to obtain or maintain employment if you continue to do something that youíve been LEGALLY PERMITTED TO DO for your entire adult life, thatís unfair and, frankly, insane. You can force someone to quit Ė Iím living proof of that. But I was extremely bitter about it for a looooong time. These days Iím done; I donít truly want to start again. There are days when I do, but mostly I find them pretty gross and canít imagine taking that habit back up, especially given how bad my health has gotten. But being forced to quit is NOT a good way to do it; youíll always be resentful about it, and given the opportunity, I think youíll take it back up as soon as you can. It has to be something you WANT to do; thatís the only way itíll take. So either remove the opportunity entirely (make it illegal) or raise the age of legality for it to such a point where only people whoíve been doing it for YEARS will be able to continue and you have no young people starting up with it, and then continue to raise it until the current generation of smokers have passed on. But this strongarm tactic is invasive, itís unfair, and a violation of your rights as a smoker. Itís very Big Brother, and I absolutely do NOT approve.
I am a long time smoker who has been trying to quit for years. The less places I'm not allowed to smoke, the less I smoke. When I do smoke, I never do it in the presence of non-smokers. I do not want to inflict my bad habit on others. With that said, I do not think a person who smokes should be banned from a job. Not every smoker is a heavy smoker just as not every drinker is an alcoholic.

If a company bans smokers, what comes next? People who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner? Over weight people? I am tired of being defined by the fact that I smoke. I do not drink, I exercise, I eat healthy (most of the time), I pray, I love, I do anything I can to help others...that is who I am. Report
I have to say I lean toward not letting them smoke. I actually had a co worker quit smoking start again why???? "Because the smokers get more breaks !!!!! Report
I have to say I lean toward not letting them smoke. I actually had a co worker quit smoking start again why???? "Because the smokers get more breaks !!!!! Report
This is very personal to me. I have Chronic Sinusitis and require a shot weekly. I never smoked and I came from a home that was never smoked in. My Grandfather rolled his own and Gr. Grand smoked a pipe. I have been told I have a smoker's disease and yet I didn't earn that. The expense, the bronchitis and miseries that accompany this disease I am priviliged to have for living in our world of selfish individuals. Report
As an adult I deserve the right to decide what I want to do with my body. As long as I am not doing anything illegal it is not up to my employer whether I want to smoke or not. This is a ridiculous idea! I do not like smoking, but I would never tell someone else they could not smoke (unless it is in my home or car). :) You can't babysit everyone, and it is not fair to deprive perfectly qualified people from jobs simply because they are smokers. Report
How long is it before they say they won't hire someone that isn't in the "standard accepted BMI rate" because obesity-related diseases cause their healthcare to cost more? Report
I am also a fromer smoker. To this day I can't stand the smell of smoke. Now with that being said do I think some one should not be hired because they smoke...NO! I think that is going to far. I think that is just another form of discrimination. We teach our kids not to smoke and not to discriminate but if you look at the government isn't that exactally what they are trying to do here. I agree with Princess_Twisty for the most part. First they want to change all the schools lunches to stuff I am sad to say I wouldn't want to eat let alone have my child eat. Now this! It's unreal. But these are all my opinions so I hope people don't get offended or whatnot. Report
this just goes too far - i am an ex smoker but i have to say this sort of thing chips away at personal liberties Report
I hate smoking. I used to smoke; quit cold turkey 8 years ago. I do suffer from allergies and the smell of cigarette smoke causes them to flare up.
That being said; I can't agree with this policy.
I am also obese. If we allow employers to decide who is "healthy" enough to work for them, then I won't have a job - EVEN THOUGH I have lost weight (40lbs) and continue to try.
It is a slippery slope.
Employers have the right to make their place of business non-smoking; and it is good for customer relations that employees not reek of smoke. But beyond that, what people do in their personal lives is up to them.
I'm tired of being molded into a robotic drone and living up to someone else's standards. And that's all this amounts to. Report
Not hiring someone because they smoke is discrimination. Americans pride themselves on non discrimination. We should encourage and offer smoking cessation programs at workplaces and in the general society. Not create a new society of people who end up on welfare because they can't get a job for an addiction. As long as they can perform their job without problems they should be hired if they qualify in other ways. I know there are people out there addicted to drugs and alcohol that are still capable of performing their job. Report
I would definitely. Not only for the employer's sake but primarily for the smoker. I wish someone would have done this when I was a smoker. If that's what it takes to get someone to stop smoking so be it. Sometimes we have to use drastic measures to help someone help themselves. Report
I voted to ban smoking in the workplace. Even if I didn't have asthma and allergic reactions to smoke it would still smell bad. I wish smokers would realize how bad they really smell! It bothers me at work because people smoke at the entrance of the building. I don't want the chemicals on my clothes. I work at a desk shared by 2 other people who smoke. I can literally smell the tobacco on my skin and clothing when I've set my arm down to use the computer. When you work around people who smoke, everyone smokes. There just isn't any way around it. Report
Smoking is bad bad bad. If I had the authority I would raze the tobacco fields and force the tobacco companies to use the land for something more beneficial to society. But fire someone because they are a smoker? If you smoke at work against policy that's one thing, but since smoking is not illegal, then firing someone for doing it infringes on the individual's freedom and civil rights. Report
For all you that want this you better be prepared for the next step of them saying if you are over weigh you are costing the health care to much as well. Report
This is crazy! Pretty soon we will be only allowed to eat certain things, or people who color their hair cant be hired. I sure hope all these anti-smokers realize that if people didnt smoke, that all the funds that are collected by taxes , that help schools and communities. I find this absolutlely crazy. I'd rather be in a room with a smoker than behind a bus poluting the air. Lets be real... we all have choices & by doing this it is a form of prejuduce. Report
If a company wants to ban smoking on it's premises, by law it has all the rights to do so, but I think it is totally unfair to target only the New Hires, if the ban is going to be put into place then it needs to be adhered by those already hired, if not, this is a double edged sword, and I for one would put a law suit against a company that fired me for smoking (if I smoked) because I was new, but did nothing to an employee that is under employment before the clause went into effect..in order to make this work a company should implement a plan and a date as to when they will be going smoke free, and then make it a rule for EVERYONE~
I don't however believe that a company has the right to tell someone they cannot smoke!!!! Report
Bad idea. As much as I hate smoking I don't feel we have the right to be everyones political police. I know some very talented and intelligent smokers who are addicted and my judgement of them won't help them quit! As long as they are courteous and don't somke at me I don't care.

Let's get off our high horses and quit trying to judge others. We can look in the mirror if we need something changed. Report
I've been a non-smoker for 3 weeks and counting, and it's hard as hell. The company I last worked at was a campus so there was non-smoking on campus so I had to sneak around to smoke and I felt like a criminal. If you are a smoker, you will find a way to smoke because it is a serious addiction. I am craving cigarette right now and i know how much it stinks, I know how much it costs everyone, I know about all the bad things. But I still want it. And it sucks. But a ban on smoking won't solve things. It'll just make people who do smoke angry and make them feel like criminals when they're just victims of society. Report
I quit smoking. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. I did it for myself, not because someone else told me to. In fact, if I were told to, I would never have done it. Never. This type of discrimination, besides seriously violating our individual rights, will not change behavior for the good. What I needed was sympathy, understanding, patience and support. Report
One of the things that really gets me...is they take smoke breaks whilst I continue to work. I should just take my own breaks. Non-Smoker Break. Report
I voted no to having a legal policy of not hiring people if they smoke. I believe the hospital in our town has that policy. On one hand I can understand it because I too despise the smell of smoke and the extra breaks that most smokers take. On the other hand if this becomes acceptable where will it end? For example, I believe most of us know there is discrimation against obese people and older people. It's difficult to find employment if you're one or the other - or both. If it becomes acceptable to legally not hire people because of a personal legal habit such as smoking I think it will be just a matter time before other hiring discrimation will become legal. It happens now but at least it isn't legal yet.
On the issue of healthcare costs... I'm reading and hearing something new every week it seems about how obesity increases health care costs. I'm sure in many cases this is true. With the cost of healthcare continuing to increase in this country I'm sure it will seem like a good idea to not hire people if they're obese. I personally have been very overweight for years and have always been among the healthiest of my co-workers at every single job I've had in the last 20 years. I don't think you can generalize on these things. Many of my co-workers were thin and looked healthy but as I got to know them, I came to realize many had some horribly unhealthy habits. They would have been hired before me because they looked healthy but they missed more work than I did and used their insurance much more than I. I know being obese does cause health problems but this generalization has been something that has irritated me for a long time so I thought I'd throw it in here. You can see if a person is obese, you can smell (or do a urine test) to determine if a person smokes but what about all the bad habits that a person may have that are hidden? You can't always judge a book by it's cover! Report
I don't like smoking, and think that it's a disgusting and expensive habit. I speak from personal experience because one of my parents has smoked for over 40 years. My dad smokes in his home, and it's the 1st thing I notice when visiting.

That being said, as long as employees meet minimum standards (fitness/training/performance) and follow corporate guidlines for designated smoke break areas, leave them alone. What they do off-duty is nobody's business as long as they show up and do their job.

A good comprimise could be charging higher out of pocket health insurance premiums for smokers to offset costs and to charge extra taxes for cigarettes to cover health insurance claims related to smoking paid by medicaid and other publically funded avenues.

I respect everybody's opinion but please read the article first. This is about human rights, not "smokers' rights". It's not about keeping your workplace smoke free; it's about dictating what employees do on their own free time, to the point of demanding urine samples for nicotine and firing people who "fail" the test. That's simply wrong. My boss can tell me what to do on company time but he does not own me. And no, I don't smoke. Report
Nonsmokers have requested for respect of their space to be kept smokefree. Understandable. I'm a nonsmoker, and I get annoyed when my boyfriends lights up a cigarette first thing in the morning while I'm trying to enjoy the new fresh air. However, if he was turned down for a job based on the simple fact that he smokes cigarettes I would be more offended. Insurance, understandable, workplace..ARE YOU SERIOUS? Bring awareness, not discrimination. Hand him pamphlets all day long on what his lungs look like, how many years he has left, etc,etc. But don't toss him to the side based on how he lives his life, especially if his personal choices don't affect you. I say that based on the new restrictions and designated smoking areas that are now far off enough not to bother nonsmokers.

I just think that's taking it too far. Report
I support a ban on work place smoking. The fact that cigarettes are legal is not an argument. After all, alcohol is legal but does your employer allow you to drink on the job?? At my place of employment smokers must use the patio out back of the building. Non smokers have no place to go to enjoy the outdoors without breathing in second hand smoke. Don't I have the right to take a break without being bombarded with clouds of second hand smoke?? If people want to smoke in their homes or their cars that's great, but I do not want to be exposed to it. Report
I have never smoked and am severely allergic to tobacco smoke, but when I was CEO of a small non-profit, I was unwilling to go as far as putting smokers out in the rain. It is important to understand that nicotine is horribly addictive. Most of the smokers I knew became addicted before the addictive and harmful nature of smoking was widely admitted by the scientific community.

Only if smoking were illegal to begin with would it be acceptable to refuse to hire smokers, and even then it should be treated as for people who are recovering from a drug addiction.

The societal message must be clear. If smoking is legal, then surely discrimination against smokers should be an invasion of their right to privacy? Report
I thought there were a lot of great comments from both sides. You can't bar someone from employment for doing something LEGAL on their own time; it is unconstitutional because it is discrimination. Charging someone more for healthcare because of a lifestyle choice is just another way for insurance companies to make profits. I don't see them losing any money. It's just like the practice of charging women more than men (which they do) because they might choose to have a child. Employers do have the right to decide when and where someone can smoke. I wish they'd ban chitchatters and gossipers too (who actually keep me from doing my work too - unlike the smokers who are outside). There are so many more important things to worry about - live and let live and ditch the hate. Let's worry about helping people who want to quit have more access to affordable care, not just hotlines and support groups. When I quit my insurance company would not pay for my prescription medication to help me quit, but it would pay for lung cancer treatment if I'd needed it. Go figure. Report
Chip, chip, chipping away at our rights/freedoms. It's just like Freedom of Speech: we may not like what some people are allowed to say, but not allowing them to speak risks all of us not being able to speak freely. As others heave already posted, where does it end? Report
I'm an occasional smoker and I agree that smoking should be band in the work environment. I smoke more when it is available such as when I was Mexico however, I don't smoke very much at home because it is so restricted where I live and I it doesn't bother me. I'm sure no smoking at work would make for a few grumpy co-workers for a couple of weeks but it would benefit the employee to smoke less in the long term even if they didnít quit completely.
But I'm sure if employers started to do this there would some very large law suits. Report
I think it's especially important when the employee interacts with customers or a product changes hands. My pet peeve is UPS drivers who smoke on their route. My packages come into my non-smoking house reaking of cigarette smoke. Report
My employer does not hire smokers. It makes for a more productive workplace.

My family has allergies to tobacco. Handling equipment or using a computer that has been used by a smoker can trigger the allergic reaction. A non-smoking workplace would be a great benefit if I ever am looking elsewhere. Report
I used to smoke, and I abhor the smell, the abuse that I suffer from my upstairs neighbors (with their smoke coming into my apartment, polluting my bed sheets and my closets and my carpet) including having them blow smoke in my face when I tried to talk to them once.... And I live in California, where many places are smoke free, but smokers often set up camp DIRECTLY outside stores, so you still have to walk through them to get in. It makes me ill.

HOWEVER, smoking is still legal. And I don't think that employers have the right to not hire someone for their legal activities. Not allowing them to smoke with extra breaks, or in work, or even around work is great.

On the other hand.. If I had a choice between a non-smoker employee hospital and one that allowed smoking employees, I'd rather go to the no-smoke hospital.

Jocelyn Report
I think it's rather silly to select employees based on weither they smoke or not. A lot of people have bad habbits that compromise their health, like drinking, watching to much tv, being coutch potatoes, or eating too much big mac's. You wouldn't put a ban on those people would you? As an employer there are a few things you can do. You can like stated in the article create designated smoking areas, or even have a 100% non-smoking policy in the workplace. But you can hardly dictate what your employees do in their own personal lives, or what you think is better for them, and defacto for your company. Report
Steeltoe has it right, and is for that reason alone I am against smokers in the workplace. If you don't take smoke breaks at the work place you are the 1 in a 1,000,000. My boss was a smoker and was one of the worst for going outside and smoking 7 - 8 times a day for 10 -15 minutes, yet if I needed a few extra minutes for lunch there was no way. Also smokers stink for the most part their cloths smell awful and their breath. This subject gets me filed up and I smoked for 20 years before I wised up and now my health is so much better. Report
A ban on workplace smoking is great, a ban on hiring smokers is not. Do we ban hiring overweight people, those who drink to excess, those who take drugs? Report
I work at a hospital. I signed an agreement when I started working that I would not start smoking (I'm a non-smoker). The hospital offers free resources to smokers to quit smoking. The campus is smoke-free anyway.
The problem with healthcare workers smoking is that even if you don't smoke around your patients, the smoke lingers. It will linger in your house, which means it will linger on your hair and on your uniforms.

Research is now showing that not smoking around people isn't enough. The carcinogens that linger in your hair, on your hands, and on your clothing has been found to increase cancer risks---it is called 3rd hand smoke. When you work in healthcare, you are bound to have someone who has some type of respiratory problem--many people in the hospital I work at are on oxygen to keep their oxygen levels saturated enough.

How is 3rd hand smoke affecting these patients?

Maybe for jobs not focusing on wellness it may be going to far, but at least for healthcare jobs, I think it is a great idea. Report
As a smoker, I realize that people have strong opinions on this subject. I, personally, am glad that smoking is not allowed IN the workplace. I don't even smoke in my house because I don't like the odor that is left over. But to bar someone from employment just because he/she smokes is just another form of discrimination. And discrimination is wrong.

Yes, a lot of smokers have more health problems than some nonsmokers. But the existence or lack of that habit does NOT guarantee a person's health. I'm rarely sick, because I make every attempt to take good care of myself. Even with that, I am still willing to pay slightly higher premiums for health and life insurance, if required.

Let me say that not all smokers are inconsiderate. I try to always be considerate of others, regardless of whether it involves my smoking or some other situation. Nothing irritates me more than a rude person. Report
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