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04/12/2013

Ethics: Not Hiring/Firing Those Who Smoke

There is a thread on this blog titled “Ethics of Smoking”.  It was started in April 2009  In that posting, a visitor wrote that her insurance company was ” threatening their employees who will not quit smoking with a dock in pay of $25.00 per pay period, until they decide to quit. The employees must have quit for 12 weeks before they can be reimbursed the so-called surcharge.”

The issue of companies non-hiring prospective employees or penalizing or firing employees who do not stop smoking continues on as an occupational, public health and ethical issue and dilemma. There are two opposing commentaries in the Perspective section of the April 11, 2013 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine with each looking at the two sides of the issue. The first commentary “Ethics of Not Hiring Smokers” presents the following conclusion: “By cherry-picking “low-risk” employees and denying employment to smokers, employers neglect this obligation, risk hurting vulnerable groups, and behave unethically. The same goes for imposing high penalties on smokers under the guise of providing wellness incentives.
We believe that employers should consider more constructive approaches than punishing smokers. In hiring decisions, they should focus on whether candidates meet the job requirements; then they should provide genuine support to employees who wish to quit smoking. And health care organizations in particular should show compassion for their workers. This approach may even be a win–win economic solution, since employees who feel supported will probably be more productive than will those who live in fear of penalties.”

Whereas the next commentary “Conflicts and Compromises in Not Hiring Smokers”, the authors conclude “We recognize that these hiring practices are controversial, reflecting a mix of intentions and offering a set of outcomes that may blend the bad with the good. We know that many companies will want merely to continue their current level of anti-tobacco efforts, but given the threats that tobacco presents to our communities and institutions, we believe it’s time to climb another rung on the ladder,,,” [toward the final rung “Eliminate Choice: Make Smoking Illegal”].

Read both free articles (click on the above links) and then return and present your opinion here. ..Maurice.

Graphic: From Google Images and modified by me with Picasa3

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