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Experts Debate Ethics of Refusing to Hire Smokers

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As a growing number of employers institute policies that ban hiring smokers, medical ethicists debated the policy in the New England Journal of Medicine. One group argues not hiring smokers sends a strong message to employees and the community that smoking is harmful, while the other group calls the practice unethical.

Both groups of experts, based at the University of Pennsylvania, focused on the policy instituted by the Cleveland Clinic, a world-famous medical institution. The group arguing in favor of the ban notes it gives job applicants a strong incentive to quit smoking and reduces medical expenses for employers. They add patients also appreciate not having to smell smoke on the clothing of healthcare workers caring for them, the Los Angeles Times notes.

The group arguing against the ban notes it is hypocritical for a healthcare institution to ban smokers, because its employees pledge to care for patients who suffer from illnesses that may be caused in part through their own lifestyle choices, such as smoking. They note the extreme degree of difficulty in quitting smoking for many people. In addition, smokers are more likely to be poor, less educated and unemployed. By not hiring smokers, employers are preventing them from both job opportunities and health insurance.

The Cleveland Clinic was one of the first hospitals to institute a tobacco screening policy for employees. Applicants who test positive for tobacco use are not considered for employment. They are referred to tobacco cessation resources, which the clinic pays for.

1 Response to this article

  1. Avatar of sherr
    sherr / April 1, 2013 at 2:04 pm

    This is rediculous! Since they are going to ban smokers from jobs, are they also going to refuse to hire the obese? The obese could choose to eat differently and exercise. They cost employers a lot of money because of their lifestyle choices. How about refusing to hire those that drink alcohol, have unpretected sex, eat potato chips, drink soda, have high cholesterol, or refuse to document daily exercise….etc. etc. It is a big brother world we live in and it is only getting worse

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