“Smokers Need Not Apply”

I just recently watched the movie Good Night And Good Luck, and we laughed at how funny it looks, now, to see 1950’s news icon Edward R. Murrow portrayed as smoking while delivering his on-air editorials. I mean, seriously… smoking, on the job! In a white-collar job! Looking at it by 2009 standards, it seems ludicrous.

So, today, most workplaces forbid smoking in the workplace. Fair enough. Smoking is unhealthy, and there’s a fair bit of evidence against 2nd-hand smoke, too. But what about employers insisting that employees not smoke at all, even in their private lives?

From The Canadian Press: ‘Non-smoker’ stipulation for job is discriminatory: smokers’ rights group

The job requirements are on par with what would be expected for any company looking for a webmaster, with one notable exception: smokers need not apply.

And a Quebec group that defends the rights of smokers is fuming over the job posting by an anti-smoking organization, calling it discriminatory.

Arminda Mota, president of mychoice.ca, a website dedicated to smokers’ rights, says the advertisement that says the successful applicant must be either a non-smoker or an ex-smoker opens the doors to all sorts of discrimination by employers….

As much as I’d like to applaud an employer’s attempt to dissuade people from an unhealthy habit/addiction, I think the smokers’-choice group is in the right, here. An employer has no business telling employees what to do on their own time.

Now, the employer in question here — the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health — is essentially claiming that being a non-smoker is a bona fide job requirement, given the Council’s mandate. That might make sense if they’re hiring a President, or a Spokesperson. (The news story is actually vague on just what sort of job is at stake, here.) But beyond such high-profile roles, private behaviour contrary to the organization’s mandate is just that — private.

6 comments so far

  1. Anonymous on

    I actually see both sides of this argument about smokers and their private and not so private habit. But overall I have seen the multitude of breaks smokers take on the job, sometimes over and above what employers know about during work hours. I am in the air over this of course, but I also know how infuriating it is to have less breaks than someone with a “bad” habit. Employers should take this habit into consideration, if only because some smokers seem to need more frequent breaks than others…

  2. Anonymous on

    yes, smoking is a private choice. And smokers can gain employment at other orgs. that don’t enforce such anti-smoking policies. People should start accepting to live with the consequences in their private lives (e.g., smoking, large number of children, tattoos, etc.) instead of asking business or government to indulge their choices or vices (which, last time I checked, are not “rights” or entitlements). If employing smokers increases the healthcare costs of the hiring firm (as it would in the USA) or research shows systematically more absences among smokers than non-smokers (= lost productivity), business has every right to discriminate.

  3. […] (I’ve blogged on unusual forms of employee discrimination before. See Discriminating Against the Non-Blind and “Smokers Need Not Apply”.) […]

  4. […] & dissimilarities between the story above and the one in this blog posting from January: “Smokers Need Not Apply”, about a job posting by an anti-smoking organization.) « Why is Business Ethics […]

  5. […] blogged about this issue before. (See: “Smokers Need Not Apply”, from January of 2009.) My conclusion back then was that an employer, no matter how […]

  6. […] blogged about this issue before. (See: “Smokers Need Not Apply”, from January of 2009.) My conclusion back then was that an employer, no matter how […]


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