Rupert Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Smoker ban extended to hiring practices of Florida municipality

I knew it was coming and am surprised it took so long to get here.

The Herald Tribune in Sarasota, Florida reported that county officials will no longer hire smokers.

They cited the burden placed on taxpayers who pay for  public worker’s health insurance noting  research of the Center of Disease Control that states the cost of hiring a smoker amounts to $3,400 in lost productivity and medical expenses.

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It seems that Sarasota is not the first Florida county  to discourage employees from smoking. A couple of others have designed policies to discourage employees from smoking.

In Manatee County, employees who are smokers pay more for the best health care coverage and must attend a class about smoking.

Some companies even extend the smoking prohibition to spouses of prospective employees according to the

The Florida state Supreme Court upheld an employers right not to hire employees who smoke in a 1995 ruling when a job applicant sued arguing that an anti-smoker policy violated her privacy. The city argued successfully that a smoker cost taxpayers $4,611 (1981 dollars) because of medical bills.

So here you have it. If it’s happening in the public sector its either going to or is already “happening in the private sector.”

And what is happening in one state will eventually spread to another.

I thought we would first be reading about this when private employers strapped with rising health care cost while providing employee benefits would offer additional benefits or discounted group health rates to non-smokers.

It’s not that smokers need higher insurance cost, it’s that smokers are choosing an unhealthy lifestyle that has an effect on the cost of the benefit supplied by the employer. Usually if the price goes up for the employer, it goes up on the employee perhaps with higher co-pay and deductibles or higher rates for dependent coverage.

Of course civil libertarians and other individual rights groups will claim breeches  of privacy, rights and choices and it does get slippery when government or employers can legally discriminate against citizens participating in legal activities based on risk statistics.

However, my rights end where your nose begins–and if me smoking causes your insurance rates to increase, we may have a problem.

Don’t mess with peoples’ babies or their money. Sooner than later it will come back on you.