Smoke? No Job for You

Smoke? No Job for You

It’s amazing what constitutes as grounds for firing or not hiring someone in the United States. Many people may not know that in a whopping 38 states, you can be denied employment just because of your gender identity. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal—and despicable—for you to not be hired simply because you are gay. These are not lifestyle choices but things you are born with, like having blue eyes or a long neck. Could you imagine if someone denied you a job because you have blonde hair? It’s just that ridiculous, and should be made illegal like the Jim Crow laws not so long ago that also enforced discrimination based solely on how a person is born.

Some new rules, however, ban employment based on personal choices. At SSM Healthcare in St. Louis, which is one of the largest healthcare providers in the area, people applying for jobs will be denied positions not only if they smoke—but if they admit to using any type of tobacco product within the past six months! That seems rather harsh—particularly if someone recently quit or is trying to quit. After all, we all need jobs, and I do know that my daughter had a couple of wonderful nurses who smoked.

That said, it sort of makes sense that doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers should not smoke. The residue brought in from smoke breaks could be detrimental to patients, for one; but SSM is citing the fact that smokers cost the company thousands of dollars per smoker each year, plus loss of productivity, for the reasoning behind their decision. Of course, that is a dangerous route to take; for one, obviously not every smoker is costing the company this much. It’s a broad generalization to make that any debater worth her salt could argue through immediately.

And if we start discriminating against smokers, we are going to have to start doing the same with everybody—people who are old, pregnant, fat, young, sick, have children, have sick parents, and so many other situations are costing the company money too, right? Let’s just fire everyone who isn’t a single, white cis-gender male who is sure to not get pregnant and not be a liability.

That might sound extreme, or like I’m defending smokers, but I’m not. In fact, I’m not, nor have I ever been, a smoker, and I wish everyone who does smoke would quit immediately. But I think everyone has a right to employment, and not hiring or firing someone should be due to their performance, not their habits or health. And if anyone is going to be penalized for smoking, should it not be the tobacco companies who so knowingly sell products that kill their customers—or the government who thinks it’s A-OK while they outlaw other items that cause certain death? Personal responsibility definitely needs to be taken—but this line of thought just isn’t fair to people

Of course, SSM is also known for their predominantly religious medical centers, and that offends me even more than a smoking nurse. I’d rather have my nurse calmed by her own habit than have a nun in a habit at my bedside, telling me this or that about something I don’t believe in—or worse, a doctor denying me life-saving services or permanent birth control, the latter has happened to me; my Catholic doctor refused to put the device in to prevent pregnancy based on the hospital’s religion.

So I would say get off your high horse, SSM; nobody is perfect, and you’re costing yourselves plenty of money by refusing to perform integral services to women based on your own religious bias. That’s probably costing you just as much, if not more, than your employees’ smoke breaks.