I’ve been thinking a lot about smoking lately. My hometown of Boise, ID just joined, although late to the party, the ranks of many other cities around the nation by banning smoking in bars. As a patron, I appreciate the smoking ban and remember the days when I would wear clothes that already needing washing given the presence of smoke stench after an evening out. Sort of brings me back to my college days at The Corner Club in Moscow, ID. I’ll admit I was a smoker for a brief period my sophomore and junior years and please don’t tell my mother.
However what really has me thinking about smoking as it relates to Healthcare and the workplace is a news story from Geisinger Health System in Danville, PA that just recently banned smoking for their employees (a quick thanks to Mr. HISTalk for the lead on the story). The article states that beginning on February 1st of this year; applicants for jobs will be screened for nicotine and those that test positive are declined, offered resources for quitting and can re-apply after six months. Overall, the program is intended to create a culture of wellness for the organization as well as reduce healthcare costs. As a pseudo-Economist, I always tend to think raising quality and decreasing costs is a good thing.
“That’s discrimination!” No, it’s not. Under federal laws including the Civil Rights Act and American with Disabilities Act, smokers are not a protected class such as race, national origin, or age (40 and over). The program mentioned above is modeled after the Cleveland Clinic who also bans smoking as well as large employer Alaska Airlines. A Google search for “companies that ban employee nicotine use” returns 961,000 results! The adage when I was growing up was: do not let your peers pressure you into smoking. After reading this article from The New York Times, it looks like business and hospital peers are pressuring each other into banning smoking.
Does this infringe on our personal rights? As a non-smoker or a smoker, I am not sure and am eager to hear what our readership has to say about this issue. The New York Times article above incited 590 reader comments. What if it was alcohol that was banned and causes many health problems as well like liver problems? If I am a drinker or a smoker, should my healthcare premiums by higher? As a beer aficionado and pseudo-married to a home brewer, I would have a real problem finding work if employers banned personal alcohol consumption.
Thinking about smoking, or not smoking, is not a fad and many employers are doing it. I suspect we’ll continue to see this trend. What do you think readers? Is this a good thing, bad thing, outrageous? Let me know and I will follow up more on this issue.