Free Market Fundamentalist Opinion

Smokers Need Not Apply

St Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has announced its intention to stop hiring smokers, stating that it hopes to improve the health of its workforce and reduce medical costs.

This May, the hospital starts screening prospective employees for nicotine use. Those testing positive will be precluded from the process.

St Luke’s is not the first employer in America to bar smokers. Several business throughout the country already screen for nicotine use; the best known among them being Alaska Airlines.

Bob Zimmel, St Luke’s senior vice president of human resources, appeared on the Fox Business Network on Wednesday to comment on the new policy. He explained that since smoking is harmful to people’s health, banning smokers from the hospital’s workforce puts “a positive message out in the community.”

Pressed by the interviewer to determine where the limit is on intruding on people’s privacy and precluding them from employment because of unhealthy habits, Zimmel admitted, “I don’t know where the line is!”

Is this just an isolated incident? Not according to Zimmel. “This is a starting point for us,” he said.

The hospital really has but one solid argument and that is that smoking increases people’s chance of succumbing to illness. Because smokers are more likely to require health care at some point, covering them under the same company health plan as non-smokers seems unfair.

That employees are insured against medical costs with their employer is actually part of the greater problem of why America’s health care is broken today and this system ought to be abolished. Insurance should be a personal responsibility.

Banning smoking from the workplace is perfectly justified. There is no reason why non-smokers should be exposed to the noxious behavior of others which imperil their own health. But to ban smokers from the workforce entirely is outright absurd.


  1. Fareed, I agree that private businesses should be free to hire or not hire whoever they like. But that doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with a certain policy.

  2. It would make sense to take smoking into consideration if you were paying for their health care costs. But it would be a minor factor when compared to a person’s ability to perform their job function.

    There are some arguments that smokers can be less productive if they take more breaks to smoke, but that doesn’t mean smoking is the enemy, just the interruptions in the work. As a result I know many smokers that don’t smoke at work or only smoke on their lunch breaks. This takes the controversy out of it (again except for when the company is paying for health insurance).

    The policy could be working just as they intended, it is at least getting them some press! Although the wider implication is that the anti-smoking movement is gaining more support, which is fine as long as they don’t make it a law that no one can smoke. Which they are in many ways working towards.

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