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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I agree smoking is disgusting, however I don't think it should be used as criteria for hiring or not hiring an employee. I like a smoke free workplace with an area for the smokers to puff away, but they should be limited to smoking only on their regular 15 minute breaks, no more. Passing laws against smoking are getting way too invasive. Our government is so screwed up. They preach the dangers of smoking and how no one should partake in tobacco use, but what the heck would they do if all the smokers quit cold turkey. How many millions of dollars of taxes would suddenly stop flowing into their greedy little hands? There is big money for the government in tobacco. First thing they want to do when they "need" more of our money is to tax the smoker. As I said, I dislike smoking, but the smoker is being singled out too often. Report
I smoked for 25 yrs. I quit 15 yrs ago. Best thing I have ever done for myself. Now I would like my DH to quit also. I voted yes, to ban smoking in the work place. As a supervisor I can't even begin to tell you how many people are sneaking out to get a smoke and not doing their jobs effectively. Because we work at a school there is already a smoking ban in place. Doesn't stop a die hard smoker. They just don't care about any thing but the next cigarette. Report
Absolutely! Now, I am now calling out all smokers here, as there are a lot of responsible smokers that don't fall under what I am going to say.

Generally the smokers that work in my building go outside for 10-15 minute smoke breaks every hour. Over the course of an eight hour day, that could be up to 2 hours worth of smoking - THAT THEY GET PAID FOR! Now, the ones that work a longer day to make up the difference are an exception, but my experience is that most of them count it as work time. Us non-smokers don't get to take that many breaks throughout the day without someone noticing that we are taking them, and then we get in trouble for it. It seems to me that smokers get treated more fairly when it comes to breaks. I have had times when I go outside with a smoker that people have complained. I wasn't smoking, just getting fresh air.

Maybe the smokers I work around are different from the rest of the planet. My husband started smoking while he was in the Army so he could get a break at work - because when he took a 'fresh air' break, they told him to get back to work. Thank God he quit, but I know several people that start because of that very thing.

I am also a former smoker and still agree with this logic - not because of the behavior itself, but all the hidden "benefits" that seem to go along with it. Report
Another former smoker here, who hates all the nastiness involved with the bad habit. I don't think anyone should be hired or fired based on whether they smoke or not. I do think employers have the right to tell them NOT to smoke while at work, but not on their own time. And to even mention that smokers' insurance should cost more is just nuts. There are other illnesses and diseases that cost insurance companies way more. Someone has too much time on their hands, thinking up this kind of stuff! Report
Overweight people dont drop there fat all around(cigarette butts), Make there fat a part of your life(smell and smoke), drop there fat on the street(butts out the window and ashtrays), etc. So why should I care about cigarette smokers rights, really? #134 comment. Report
I can't believe the amount of people that think this is a good idea... Report
Bad Idea!! Next they will say okay your too fat we won't hire or will fire you because you cost our company too much money, or no your in a wheel chair we can't hire you because you will cost us money to hire you, no you have AIDS we can't afford to keep you. Smoking is a disease and an addiction. When they outlaw cigarettes then they can tell me I am fired. It is not right! Report
Smoking is an addiction just like overeating is an addiction. I know in the past I had bad health habits and would want to be taken serious for a job. I think it shouldn't be part of the interview process. However, it is perfectly acceptable for the company to charge more for health premiums or prohibit smoking on the jobsite since they own the establishment, and you are bing paid to be there. Report
I am very sensitive to cigarette smoke, and having to breath it or even be around smokers leaves me with a headache and nausea. One of my parents died from a cigarette-cause disease.

But I do not support not hiring smokers because of medical costs, because the same case can be made for not hiring the obese, the diabetics, the alcohol users, those who have had organ transplants, the disabled, those who have chronic illnesses and anyone else who needs more medical care.

I do feel that smokers should have a designated smoking area away from entrances and other employees, and that the employer enforces this, and that if the employee refuses to comply, this becomes an issue for disciplinary action. Since smoking is an addiction, if an employer wants to require employees to quit, the employer should provide smoking cessation help. And tests for nicotine use are only partly helpful, since individuals who use a nicotine patch may still test positive.

The effects of "third-hand smoke" are now recognized. Third-hand smoke refers to the toxic particulate matter that remains on clothing, skin, hair, and objects that have been exposed to tobacco smoke. This is thought to be particularly dangerous to children.

I'm glad that smoking has been banned from the workplace. However, I agree with others that you can't force a person to be healthy. If they want to smoke, that's a personal decision and shouldn't have any bearing on their ability to do their job. Fire a person because they are incompetent, not because they smoke.

Where does it stop ? What will people do when a company decides a person is too fat to work for them ? What's the difference ? Which is my point. You can't force a person to be healthy. If a person wants to stop smoking, they've got to do it on their own. If they want to continue to smoke, they're adults and know the consequences of their actions.

So, no, I would not support an employer who banned from their employees from smoking. Report
Smoking stinks....on and off the job. People who smoke bring it in the work place....(proven fact that it stays on your clothes and you are breathing second hand smoke). I voted employee ban on smokers. It's an employer privilege to hire whomever they want to hire. JMO.... Report
I manage a health food store and a lot of my clientele has serious sensitivities to odors including, but not limited to, smoke and perfumes. Our staff and the owner are non-smokers and do not wear fragranced items. Even if you do not smoke on the job or during working hours the very nature of smoke is to cling to everything so you always have the residue on your person. While I try to understand a person's right to smoke (yes, I AM a reformed smoker myself) their right to smoke ends at other people's airspace. So we do not hire smokers and I haved no problem with the perceived "slippery slope." You choose to smoke, you also choose not to be employed at my establishment. You choice, right? Our choice also. Report
This is a horrible idea. One that will be abused.

How can someone know if a prospective employee is a smoker? Do they ask "are you a smoker?" If the person says no, what checks are done to make sure they are telling the truth?

What if it's the spouse of the potential employee that smokes? Can they be discriminated against for that too?

And if this is allowed, where will it end? If you drink will you not be allowed to work at some places? If you take prescription drugs, a company can say you can't work there?

Last I checked, smoking wasn't illegal. Until it is a crime to smoke practices such as these are the ones that are illegal!

(And no, I'm not a smoker. I'm very allergic to cigarette smoke. Causes my eyes to swell and to break out into hives. It's the principal of something that like that I'm against.) Report
Absolutely NOT! This is discrimination of the worst kind. I am not a smoker. I have asthma and am directly affected by smoke. However, to deny work to a smoker is like denying work to someone who is overweight. Shame on anyone who supports this!

I think it is enough to ban smoking in the workplace. Report
I am for this.

I have worked at places where there was a designated smoke area far away from the door in accordance with AZ law. Do you know what the smokers did? Stood next to the door and smoked because it was too inconvenient to walk that far. I had to call the No smoke enforcement hotline 4 times before I got called into the office at work and yelled at for causing too much trouble! I am allergic to smoke and nobody cared about that.

Now I work at a place that does not allow smoking anywhere on the property or you are subject to immediate dismissal. I am waaay more comfortable at work and never have to worry about being unable to do my job because my allergies were acting up.

I have never met a smoker that was willing to work peacefully alongside me as a non-smoker who is allergic to smoke so I think in order to prevent hostile work situations this is a good idea! Report
I voted undecided since its a slippery slope.

Employers want productivity. I am not a smoker. I have worked with many smokers and found them to be very irritable and difficult to work when they needed a cigarette break. Or a diet coke and cigarette break. Or a Red Bull and cigarette break. Or a Rock Star and cigarette break. I have also been in the workplace trying to get work completed to meet a deadline of some sort, and had to wait for the smokers to return from 1 of their several smoke breaks. I think smoking and work do not mix. Smoke at home. Don't smoke at work. It interferes with work productivity, makes it difficult for things to get done. Smokers just don't get it. They don't see how they come off to others. If they need a cigarette, they're often abrasive, rude, short tempered, and not emotionally balanced - until they have another cigarette. I have also worked customer service desk at a small neighborhood market one summer, and the smokers were very rude in the morning before work. They demand their brand of cigarettes and usually get a diet coke. NICOTINE is a drug. Horrible impact. Makes people not desirable to be around. So - I voted undecided because technically is slippery slope. But bottom line - smoking is not cool. There's no way of putting it nicely. I don't think it mixes with work, same as alcohol doesn't mix at work.

Some may argue that this is discrimination...well welcome to the USA. Overweight and severely obese people are discriminated against. Everyone is discriminated against or biased against for some reason if the other person is not the * same * as them.

I don't like cigarettes, don't know many people that smoke. But who am I to say " You can't smoke at work." Seems a bit pushy. But employers are all about the bottom line, or bottom dollar.... Report
I want the ban, because smokers are so rude with their habit, and I hate having to go through clouds of smoke to get in buildings, break areas, etc. Also why should 4 out of 5 ppl have to pay higher premiums just for that 1 of 5 that smokes? I'm for the ban! Report
This is just a start for losing our freedoms. If it is supposed to help employees be healthy then it is not long until your weight will be a reason for dismissal to try to "make you eat more healthy food." It is very hard to get back freedoms that are lost and the tendency is to become more controlling. Report
I definitely agree with banning smoking at the workplace, and I definitely agree that people should not smoke on company time.But you can't tell a person what they can and cannot do with their own body on their own time.
And not hiring someone solely based on their smoking habits is akin to not hiring someone because they are overweight or disabled - it's just plain discrimination.
Smoking is an addiction, and for many people it is almost impossible to quit. What's next? Sorry, you drink more than two cups of coffee a day, so we won't be employing you. Pfft, I don't think so.

I have never smoked in my life, but I completely disagree with these policies.
I don't know alot about the US laws relating to smoking, health care etc, but it would seem like common sense that a person collecting unemployment benefits is going to be a heavier burden on society than a person who is employed but smokes. Sometimes I wonder where common sense has disappeared to these days.... Report
I have two reasons why it would be a good idea:

1. I work at a daycare and when employees take a break to smoke, they come back in with smoke on their clothes and the kids inhale it. Its not good for them.

2. I worked at a house for people with disabilities where employees would be on the porch smoking literally every 15 minutes and neglecting their clients. There was no manager there to monitor that.


What my boss does is our daycare campus is smoke free, and if an employee wants to smoke, they have to clock out and leave the building and the parking lot completely. We dont have any problems. The two that do smoke smoke on the way home and on the way to work and that's all....so it works fairly well. Report
Wow It's a tie! Report
for the first time i decided to cast my vote PRIOR to commenting and as you might have guessed, this hot button issue for many people for a variety of reasons is currently evenly divided as of my post--45% a piece for AND against with 8% undecided. i am all for personal freedoms and under our current "healthcare" system, those individuals that engage in higher risk behaviors can, in many instances, be forced to pay higher premiums. however, with our latest legislation designed to provide access to health care for more americans, even with larger numbers paying into the pool, i wonder what, if any impact this group may have on ALL our costs. now that being said, if any of you have seen "the insider" ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_In
), then you are aware of how the big tobacco companies colluded to keep the truth about the harmful and addictive properties of cigarettes hidden from the american people. these companies gave LOTSA $$ to certain politicians to create legislation related to deregulating not only THEIR industry, but big pharma as well as labeling laws. and don't get me started on the neutering of our regulatory agencies due to de-funding. so in effect, our govt ALLOWED, dare i say encouraged and facilitated the bad behavior of these companies in exchange for campaign contributions and now we have a major health issue on our collective hands. i don't claim to have the answer but whatever it is should be a nuanced, long-term solution to the problem that doesn't put the health of non-smoking employees at risk OR further disenfranchise low wage workers by keeping them from obtaining gainful employment in an already fragile economy. more people working and NOT less is requisite for the recovery and health of our country, which goes right to the heart of our "national interests". Report
I support the decision of companies to ban smoking on their property and even to have employees that are smokers have higher premiums, but I think that these companies then need to offer employees access to smoking cessation programs, such as the American Lung Association's Freedom from Smoking on the premises (maybe during lunch time or either right before or right after work). Smoking is an addiction and smokers .will need the support and tools to manage the cravings that are bound to arise Report
Seriously? Someone could be fired for what they do on their own time, outside of work, to their own body? That's.... well... fascistic. Report
In my view, this is a slippery slope. Once smoking is addressed as a health issue, what's next? I am one of those who is severely allergic to smoke, and have always had to find jobs where smoking was not allowed. Now smoking is banned in workplaces and restaurants here, and that is enough. Going so far as to ensure employees don't smoke in their own homes, on their own time via urine tests and the like is going too far. What next, people with heart trouble, or a cancer gene, or ??? Report
smokings bad but i think thats going to far Report
As a former smoker I have mixed feelings, but in general I support this kind of policy. Actually, what I mostly support is a ban on smoking at the work place. I work for a hospital and as of February 1st of this year all of the campuses of the hospitals in our system are smoke free. You can't even smoke in your car. I think that this is a pretty good policy for a health care organization.

We used to have a designated smoking area, but it got taken away from us by a construction project to expand the hospital. Then the designated smoking area was right outside the front door...under the sign that says "no smoking." Didn't make a lot of sense...

I used to see a lot of pregnant women in their hospital gowns and attached to IV stands out smoking in that area out front where the other smokers used to congregate. I'll have to say that even when I was a smoker that just ticked me off. If you want to smoke you can do it. It's a legal substance and you have the right to make that choice for yourself. But your baby doesn't have a choice and that really did tick me off when I would see it.

So I don't know if I really support companies refusing to hire smokers, but I absolutely support companies telling smokers that they can't smoke at work. Report
I would support banning people from smoking IN the workplace where they expose others to the smoke. I know someone who gets very ill around smoke. However, I don't think that preventing a person who smokes from getting a job because of it is right, either. I have worked for a company like that and everyone who smoked went outside every half hour for a smoke break assuming the boss didn't know (which he might not have) They actually worked about 10 minutes for each hour. So a total ban doesn't work, either. They should have a way to limit the breaks they take for smoking, though, because it isn't fair to those who don't want to be breathing the smoke or to those who don't smoke and stay and do their work. Report
As an ex-smoker, I will say that I am glad I quit. But the figures they are spouting about how much smoker's cost for health care compared to non-smokers is bull-pucky!! I smoked for well over 25 years and I hardly ever had to go to the doctor. My health care costs did not start rising until I gained weight. THEN I started having trouble breathing and got bronchitis more often. When I was thin, there was no problem. So don't believe everything you hear. They love to throw around big numbers to scare everyone and in a lot of cases they are not justified. Report
The company I work for HAS banned smoking. I love it, as I am severely allergic to smoke. Employees are very healthy - very few sick days, and no one comes to work sick. It's a nice environment. Report
This sounds like Big Brother...I hate cigarettes, and do not smoke, but to take away , an individual's right to make their own decisions, I think NOT. Report
With drugs that impair judgment, I can understand urine tests and refusing to hire them in. If the person may be impaired from doing the job by a choice they make, then they shouldn't be hired. But smoking, as long as no smoke breaks are taken, does not interfere with the job. Eliminate smoking breaks and charge smokers the average difference in health care costs on top of regular premiums. That way, non-smoking employees don't pay more, but smokers aren't discriminated against in any way that's ludicrously unfair. Report
I am a non smoker. Thirty four years ago I applied to work at a Seventh Day Adventist hospital. They had a no smoking and vegetarian policy. You could do whatever on your own time but could not smoke on the premises. You could bring your own food but all the cafeteria offered was vegetarian. I think companies especially hospitals have the right to restrict these activities on their property but not in your time off. I do think it is OK to charge smokers more for their health care policies as that is a real cost. Report
I can not begin to express how angry I am about the whole idea. When has it gone too far? At what point will people stop trying to control the actions of others.

I don't enjoy walking through smoke - but they can be moved. I don't like it if they take extra breaks - but that is a business decision somebody is allowing them to do that. The extra costs not only accrued by smokers - obese people cost more too, make them pay the extra.

I was shocked when I voted and noticed that the "yes" was so close to the "no". Report
I'm fine with banning smoking within the workplace setting or public areas. I don't like having to put up with secondhand smoke from coworkers. However, banning them because they smoke at all goes too far. Urine tests for nicotine? Really? As many have said, where do we draw the line? This is discrimination and goes too far. If an employer wants to offer incentives to quit smoking, that's great, but one's employment should NOT be based off of whether or not they smoke. Report
My husband has emphysema and almost died from smoking. He is healthier now, he quit. It really bothers him to walk through clouds of smoke to get to restaurants, movies, businesses downtown, the hospital, etc.
It makes him sick to have to walk by people with too much cologne as well.
I don't think it's right that chain smokers get more breaks than anyone else, but if they can wait until they are in their car I wouldn't care.
I don't see why everyone says well then "let's ban obese people" it's not the same. They don't go around making others sick.
I don't know about a full out ban, but at least quit smoking in doorways! Report
This just makes my blood boil. To base a hiring decision on anything other than an individual's qualifications is blatant discrimination. Addiction to drugs or alchohol is considered to be a disability here in Canada, and it is against human rights legislation to deny someone employment on the basis of a disability. I don't see why addiction to tobacco, food or any other substance should be any different.

It is possible for smokers to co-exist in the workplace peacefully with non-smokers. Have a designated spot for them that is far away from any entrances or common areas. If they take extra breaks that they aren't entitled to, that becomes a performance issue that the employer needs to deal with. And if the employer is concerned about health costs, have resources available to educate employees and help them quit. Report
I think before banning people from medical care/their jobs etc, they need to be better educated on the bad side effects. I'm not a smoker but there's always 3 sides to every situation. If you ban someone medical care because they smoke & have an illness, then do you ban a diabetic who comes in for care as a result for having high blood sugar levels (do to not following their diet). As someone mentioned it gets too complicated. But maybe with the high costs all people need to be warned with whatever they're doing be it smoking, bad diets ete etc. & after 3 strikes without any attempt then maybe this soluation. Report
Why stop there!

Why don't we have companies terminate employees who are overweight?
Why don't we allow companies mandate that everybody must do 60 minutes of exercise every day?
We should also ban anybody under 30 from driving, because auto accidents are costing our employer's medical insurance too much.

Um... yeah. No.
I came very close to dying because of second hand smoke...actually had a lung collapse. I think smoking during working hours should absolutely be banned....Oh and that goes for strong perfumes too. This really shouldn't be an issue if some people would learn to have some common courtesy and not inflict toxic chemicals on others around them. Report
The problem is that, while on its face this makes sense, it opens the door by setting a precedent to a very slippery slope. What's next? I don't get hired because I am morbidly obese? Obese? Fat? Short? Female? Biracial? It might make better sense to incentivise good behavior, but this reeks of discrimination. Report
In my opinion, smoking is just as bad as, if not worse than, most illegal drugs. It's not technically illegal yet, but I think it should be. Maybe the first step would be making smoking illegal. Then it would be no different than employers not hiring someone who failed a drug test. Report
I am not a smoker, and I am definitely against smoking, but employers banning smokers is discrimination. I would prefer non-smokers in my office, but just because somebody smokes shouldn't mean they can't get hired. And if they can only get a job if they quit smoking, how is that going to happen? Most people that smoke are addicted. It's not easy to quit smoking.

I can't believe how many people on here voted for discrimination. What if they didn't hire obese people? I'm sure some, if not a lot, of you wouldn't be hired and would be upset about their policy. And to get the job you had to lose weight? Well, we know how tough it can be to lose a few pounds, let alone to lose enough to not be obese. Report
For those of you who think job security of smokers should be comprimised consider viewing a youtube video(any one of them) by Dr. Gabor Mate. I am an addictions specialist and beg you consider all the facts before we elect to burn addicts at the stake so to speak. Sincerely. Report
I all for banning smoking in indoor public places - why should non-smokers be subjected to their poisonous fumes? However, I don't think smokers should have their job security jeapodized over their bad habit. The "where do we draw the line" principle applies here: over-weight people, people who enjoy extreme sports or hobbies or anybody doing anything with an amount of risk to health involved would also need to be subjected to these standards. It's gets too complicated. Report
I all for banning smoking in indoor public places - why should non-smokers be subjected to their poisonous fumes? However, I don't think smokers should have their job security jeapodized over their bad habit. The "where do we draw the line" principle applies here: over-weight people, people who enjoy extreme sports or hobbies or anybody doing anything with an amount of risk to health involved would also need to be subjected to these standards. It's gets too complicated. Report
At my workplace everyone smokes including the employers, I come back stinking of smoke from work every single day because they all smoke in a room by the fire exit. It's not nice :( I would love it if they were not smoking in the workplace! :D Report
I am completely against smoking! My Dad died from it. That being said, I think this is going too far. Ban people from smoking at work, in public places, etc., but don't take liberty with people's liberties! Report
I gave up along time ago caring about smokers right. Weather it be right or wrong I will not fight for the rights of smokers. I am glad that cigarettes have high taxes etc. It might be unjust in some peoples eyes the way I feel. I have tired and been anoyed by enough smokers to not care about there rights. Smoking in my area or face, ciggaretes or ashtrays be thrown out the window, smokers never being able to put there cigarettes in the tray outside the store. Instead all over the sidewalk outside the store, etc, etc, etc. One of my daughters freinds parents smoke. When I have picked her up at her house in my car she(who doesnt smoke) reeks so bad it makes my car smell bad just from her skin and clothing. So if they want to do this I dont care about smokers and there rights, sorry. Report
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