Hot off the press: Tobacco-Free Hiring…A step to better health or a step too far?
In this very interesting article published recently at NY Times, A.G Sulzberger presents a new employment trend, as observed in some settings in the United States: smokers now face the risk of not being employed or getting fired- even if they smoke in their own space and during their leisure time. Some companies go as far as conducting urine tests to detect nicotine in their employees’ system or fire people who have been “caught” smoking in their lunch time.
Companies who practice “tobacco free hiring” claim that they try to promote a healthy lifestyle for their employees and also to dicrease health care costs, as it is not fair that non-smokers have to subside for their smoking co-workers unhealthy lifestyle, should the latter get smoking-related health problems.
Voices of concern, however, are raised about consequences that unemployment itself could have on peoples’ health and also about where the line should be drawn regarding what constitutes a risk behaviour during leisure time (even more, a risk behaviour that will be decisive on someone’s employment status). Unhealthy diet leading to obesity, alcohol consumption and extreme sports quickly come to mind and raise some eyebrows about a) why only smoking is targeted and b) what future might bring regarding *insert risk behaviour here* free hiring.
What is your opinion on this new trend? Should companies have the right to choose their employees based on habits practiced outside working hours? Is this a practice that could be effective in reducing smoking rates? Or are such policies discriminatory and even hypocritical, since they ignore other health risk behaviours that might also pose a burden on health care costs and peoples’ health? And should other risk behaviours also be targeted in the future?