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An Unnecessary Drag on Workers

by on December 14, 2009

I’m going to start smoking just to make sure I can never work for Amherst. I don’t know if my broad skill set ranging from a mediocre typing speed to the principled unwillingness to steal co-workers’ lunches from the break room fridge would make me eligible for town employment. Nonetheless, I’d like to do everything possible to disqualify myself from ever working for minor-league health fascists:

If you smoke, you might not be hired to work for the town of Amherst. At least, it’s something board members voted to officially look into in a 4-2 vote Monday night.

Attorneys and human resources will look into whether it’s legal and practical to try to hire only non-smokers.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for the unhealthy habits of employees,” said Mark Manna (D-Town Board).

The town’s potential scheme puts a fairly large pool of job seekers in a bind. Even smoking Tea Partiers who feel reflexively averse to bureaucratic employment might wish to quit so they may keep employment options open. After all, Obamanomics is ensuring that the government is the source of many jobs and most of the good ones. But it’s better to remain broke than let a job boss you around during off hours. Now, will the smoker-free work zone actually happen?

Dr. Barry Weinstein (R), Town Supervisor-Elect and a medical doctor believes it may also be the town’s choice when hiring new employees.

“Is this a slippery slope, if you say we’re not going to hire smokers is the next step, we’re not going to hire people who are overweight or eat at McDonald’s or things like that?” Kristin Donnelly asks.

“It is a slippery slope… and that’s why we’re studying it. We have not made a proposal to do anything,” Weinstein answers.

We should extend cheers to Donnelly for asking a fundamentally necessary question about the concept’s chief shortcoming. She further astutely uncovered counselors who point out legal troubles with the proposal. As someone who can say things attorneys can’t, I’d like to additionally underscore that Amherst’s discussed plot is restrictive junk that would shamefully disqualify the qualified simply for puffing away their free time.

The problem with considering it is that Amherst is considering it. The mere existence of the idea that would prohibit hiring workers engaging in a legal activity is a galling affront to personal rights. The proponents claim it will save the town money on insurance. But that’s in fact an argument to let individuals buy health care on their own. That approach would save Amherst, and every other public and private employer, quite a sum.

Until then, the town is considering potentially discriminating against the wrong workers. Amherst should prefer a smoker who walks to work versus a non-tobacco user who helps clog the Tim Hortons drive-thru line every morning while acquiring a quadruple quadruple.

Massive guts may be worse than charcoal lungs. But it’s easier to just bully smokers. For one, they don’t fight back for long on account of breath shortage. More importantly, the town can get away with contemplating whether they may disqualify applicants based on a lifestyle choice that results in a little gratification: giving smokers grief is one of the last acceptable forms of bias among those who tolerate every other lifestyle choice imaginable. The excessively broadminded are curiously fine with banishing smokers either outdoors or possibly off the payroll.

But we should prefer smoking workers. They’re more relaxed and therefore extra productive, not to mention that they’re much, much cooler than non-inhaling squares. In the meantime, tobacco users should just switch to chew if this suggested policy becomes law. It’s a fun loophole that will get even better once indulgers sue for the right to have spittoons installed in the office. Amherst officials who floated the anti-smoking concept deserve both the headache and mess.

  1. Employers should be able to not hire individuals that have an unhealthy lifestyle and will cost them more money than individuals who enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Why should taxpayers have to pay the extra costs associated with people who smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, over-indulge in innutritious foods and do not exercise?

    It is more shocking that NYS prohibits discrimination based upon lifestyle choices. I chalk this up to one more added cost of doing business in New York.

  2. Nick permalink

    @ Brian

    I think he was arguing that the gov’t shouldn’t be discriminating, not that private businesses can’t discriminate based on lifestyle choices.

    And to address your other point, the author states

    “The proponents claim it will save the town money on insurance. But that’s in fact an argument to let individuals buy health care on their own. That approach would save Amherst, and every other public and private employer, quite a sum.”

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