by Dr. Simi Paknikar on  April 12, 2013 at 12:39 PM Health In Focus
Discrimination against Hiring Smokers - A Point of Debate
Many organizations including the World Health Organization have stopped recruiting smokers. Is this ethical? A perspective on this topic was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The aim of the WHO in not recruiting smokers and banning smoking inside some of its offices is to curb the smoking problem, at least to some extent. Tobacco is harmful even to passive smokers; these are people who do not smoke but are exposed to second-hand smoke. According to the WHO, deaths due to tobacco-related diseases are more common than those caused by malaria, maternal conditions and injuries together.

Another reason why employees do not prefer smokers is that smoking increases the rate of absenteeism and results in higher health insurance claims, thus increasing the financial burden of the other employees.

However, it is important to understand that smoking is an addiction. It may therefore not be easy for a person looking for employment to give it up all of a sudden. Many smokers start smoking very early in their teens, when they may not understand the implications of this addiction on their future job. It is even more surprising that health care organizations that are concerned about the health of the general population have implemented such rules to their recruiting process.

Health insurance claims are also increased by other ailments; some believe it is unfair to exclude only smokers for this reason. They believe that implementing smoking cessation programs would be more useful for these individuals and could help to reduce the smoking problem to some extent. In addition, financial incentives for non-smokers could also assist in smoking cessation.

Some of the states in the US have prohibited the discrimination between smokers and non-smokers during the hiring process. However, there are many others, which do not have any such restrictions, and smokers continue to struggle to find jobs. Smokers are more exposed to illnesses; therefore, there is an even more urgent need to ensure that they are financially stable. The ethics of not recruiting smokers continues to be a point of debate until a universal decision is taken in this regard.


Schmidt H, Voigt K, Emanuel EJ. The Ethics of Not Hiring Smokers, 2013.

Source: Medindia

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