Sometimes you hear something that just makes you stand up and shout out loud, "What the f...?" Last night presented exactly just such an occasion as my wife and I were busy doing some remodel work in our master bedroom, and we happened to be listening to the John Tesh show on the radio—for the record, my wife chose the station. In the segment Tesh cited a news story he had read that said that some companies were choosing not to hire smokers, and some even engage in testing employees for the presence of nicotine. If you get caught with nicotine in your system, you could be fired from your job. According to a few of the studies Tesh mentioned, companies employing such policies were concerned over the costs associated with having smokers on their payroll. Medical costs notwithstanding, companies also cited studies that showed smokers were more likely to take days off, and more likely to require more time off overall. There were even studies that linked smokers to lower rates of productivity, and one estimation put the cost to companies of employing smokers at around $100 billion a year.

Granted, no one is going to argue the fact that smoking is hazardous to one's health. And certainly it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that passive smoke poses serious health risks as well. It's perfectly reasonable for a company to have policies in place that seek to minimize the potential risks associated with smoking to employees who do not smoke. But when a company policy begins to extend outside the workplace, and becomes involved in an employee's personal life, which has been the case in this example, I take exception to that. Even as a non-smoker. I think any reasonable person would and should take exception to a policy like that. Isn't it bad enough when our government seeks to play the role of big brother? Now companies want to control our lives too?

We all work hard at our jobs. It's tough to go into a job site day in and day out and carry out what are often times menial, and very boring tasks—if you are not in that category I applaud you. We're not at work because we necessarily want to be there. Not to say work is not satisfying on some or another level, but let's be honest here. I think most of us could agree that if we won the lottery tomorrow, it would mark the beginning of retirement. We're at work because we want things, and because we need things. We work so that when we are at home spending time with our families and friends we can have personal enjoyment. Perhaps we like to enjoy a cocktail. Maybe we decide on a Friday night we'd enjoy loading up our bellies with fried fish. Perhaps we go bowling or have a game of tennis.

Smoking is hazardous. No one denies that. But so are many of the things we do outside of work. All of those activities have the potential to pose risks to productivity and down time just as smoking does. So the question becomes, where then do you draw the line? Do you stop at smoking, or do you force employees to improve their diets as well? Take away those unhealthy Friday night fish fries because you could get fat, or you could get heart disease. Do you monitor and test employee's cholesterol levels? Do you send private investigators out to police the local favorite Friday night fish fry spots in town? And what about sports? What if an employee engages in sports on the weekends? Do you put a policy into effect that employees cannot engage in sports because it may lead to a broken arm, or a sprained ankle? Surely all of these activities will cost companies in lost time and lost productivity. Hell, why not even go as far as to cancel weekends, because we all know companies worst productivity is on Mondays and Fridays.

Of course it's ridiculous.

Besides the fact that these companies are citing such waste and cost due to smokers, we all know who they are referring to. They're not talking about their CEOs or other top executives. They're talking about the little people. The worker bees. The bottom half of the totem pole. You can't tell me for one second that a single one of these companies who would put such ridiculous policies on the books would ever think to include the upper echelon in them. Like liberal politicians, they're so much smarter than we are. They know what's best for us. Do you think these guys would give up their fine cigars, for example?

Companies need to pay close attention to their bottom lines. Certainly I appreciate that. I'm a stockholder in several companies myself, and of course I want the best return on my investment I can possibly get. And I think I've made it clear I agree that many employee's habits can and do have an impact on the bottom line overall. They cost money. That's inarguable. Still, if you ask me, it's not mine nor the company's business what an employee chooses to do after working hours unless it's breaking the law, even if it has the potential to cost the company a few bucks one way or the other.

It's just too much of a slippery slope for my comfort. In fact, it should be a very scary thing for anyone. Again, where do you draw the line? What other personal freedoms might you have to give up just to keep a job?

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Comments 31 comments

eovery profile image

eovery 6 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

Watch out the green police and the "health" police is coming.

Keep on hubbing!

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Terrific hub. Tell me where does the intrusion into our lives end? If an employee smokes off the job, it is no ones business. End of story! Will they start firing those who enjoy a beer or a glass of wine?

daytripeer 6 years ago

I will never be rich because early on in life I developed the penchant for telling people like this to go to hell. When they take away something from someone, some are not upset because it does not apply to them, but, they need to understand that one day, something will apply to them. Reading this got me all worked up and now I am hoping this comes up where I work. lol

daytripeer 6 years ago

Thanks for writing this. Good Hub

Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

WOW, I didn’t hear of any of this. I am not a smoker, and abhor the smell but this happens right after they produce e-cigs? Unbelievable! Hmmm, There are some smokers that I know who will definitely get a kick out of this hub, springboard!!!!

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Great hub. You have to wonder where the intrusion into our private lives ends. It seems to be getter worse all the time. We are suppose to live in a free country and we don't want our every move evaluated by some condescending government agent or even someone we work with daily. We are going to have to stand up for our rights as a group!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Thanks to everyone for stopping by. When I heard this whole thing I thought exactly that. How far can someone go in controlling our lives, you know, because you HAVE to have a job in order to buy food, a place to live, a car to get work, etc. etc. The other scary thing is that we definitely do have to stand up for our rights, as Pamela stated, but I've run into so many people at places of work who are willing to just take whatever the boss gives them. "Hey, I've got bills to pay," I hear all the time. And I agree. Like I said. We have to work.

Two things I think we can do. 1) stay ahead of the game at every turn. That means live below our means, keep a nice cash reserve aside so that we are able to CHOOSE to work for a company we want to rather than be forced to work because we can't afford to make a change, or have a gap in benefits or pay. 2) Become voters when we buy stuff. Adhere to that saying "Every time we spend a dollar we cast a vote for the kind of world we want to live in." If a company does something we don't like we should not buy their products, period. When sales dip, and retention gets to be a big problem, companies will get the hint that they can only control so much—and then they can get back to the business of focusing on the business instead of on you.

Again, thanks to everyone for sharing in the debate.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I first remember hearing about a guy who tested employees for nicotine about ten years ago.

I could hardly believe it.

Shoot, why not only hire gay people? They typically need a lot less maternity or paternity leave!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Don't give anyone any ideas. :)

John Rasor 6 years ago

Great Hub, Springy, Big Brother is coming for us all, as Orwell predicted. Someone always manages to stop them, in this country, anyway - but it's only a matter of time. Technology will continue to grow and make them stronger, I fear. But people like you, who have the temerity to question, is the answer... Hear, Here, my friend!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Hopefully we are an increasing breed as opposed to a dying one. Thanks very much for stopping in and leaving your thoughts.

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I feel so stupid having not looked at the "Springboard" profile, and figuring out who it was. . . . .

I think that your friend John Rasor is someone who shares my. . . . . .pessimism, which means that I probably should follow him.

Cheeky Girl profile image

Cheeky Girl 6 years ago from UK and Nerujenia

I am glad I am not a smoker. If firms feel the need to start checking or breathalizing staff for whatever reason, there might be a culture of something happening there. A flag may have gone up regarding alcohol culture or drug taking or something else. Or some firms are having insurance companies at them to curtail some kinds of health claims. There could be a simple reason. Its useful to put yourself in the bosses shoes for a bit...

I am all for a healthy workforce, and people not falling down drunk or high or dying. As long as it is not big brother clamping down to much. There has to be some balance. Otherwise some workers might then ask - Who will breathalize the bosses?

Interesting Hub!

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

When it comes to alcohol matters or drugs those are, I think, separate issues. Those are different kinds of policies and they make sense. So is a no-smoking policy on the premises itself. That's perfectly reasonable in my opinion. But if I want to engage in legal activities at home, outside of work hours, that's my business entirely no matter what. Alcohol being the exception of course because of its intoxicating value.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, Grrrr!! As you can see, that makes me mad! do they check for drg abuse? that is more important. it makes me mad because I read that Parliament in England, have a smoking room! but the little people outside that pay their wages, have to give up smoking in a public place.... cheers, nell

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Checking for drug abuse is reasonable. So is saying to an employee that you cannot smoke on premises. It's the regulating of what you can do at home that bothers me. Thanks for stopping by. Always a pleasure to hear from you. :)

ehern33 profile image

ehern33 6 years ago

Thanks for the article, it was a great read that actually boiled my blood. You said it all along with some of the comments I also read. Where will it end?

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

It got my blood boiling too, so much so that my wife looked at me and quipped, "I feel a blog coming." I said, "I'll hub this one as well." :) Glad you stopped in.

habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Man, this pisses me off! How much more "gubment" control will we tolerate??

Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid

Springboard, WTF is so right.... You say, "So the question becomes, where then do you draw the line?", and I would agree, to an extent, but for me the question is really, "If smoking is so darned bad, why is it still legal?" I guess there wouldn't be a single country (except China and India, maybe) that would be able to balance a budget without the tobacco taxes... It's all so hypocritical that I want to spit.

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

You hit on a very big part of it when you asked whether the budget could be balanced without tobacco taxes. Taxes and money have quite a lot to do with why smoking has not ever been outrightly banned, aside from the fact that I don't think prohibition generally works, and certainly would never work in this case. It never has stopped anyone from getting hold of something they want—it does do a wonderful job of creating black markets however. But going back to taxes, if you look at what's happening in California with the ever growing availability and near legalization of marijuana, and it's dire financial situation, it's clear to see that California officials may be thinking marijuana might just be the answer to their money woes. If they can legalize it, they can tax it.

Elena. profile image

Elena. 6 years ago from Madrid

Precisely, Springboard. Totally agree. Making tobacco illegal would just create a fabulous black market and as many "tobacco lords" if not more as "drug lords" we have today.

So, OK, can't argue with the fact that smoking isn't too good for one's health, but can we please get this act together and stop demonizing smokers? Or alcohol drinkers or fat people, for that matter?

Guess you can see I feel strongly about this one, can't you? :-) I'll stop clogging your comments now :-)

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

You are welcome to 'clog' here any time. :)

Bail Up ! profile image

Bail Up ! 6 years ago

I don't suppose the fat cats will be giving up their Cohibas to lead by example. Great post, had not heard of this but smells of lawsuits...

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Nor their time on the golf course during working hours doing 'business.' Thanks for stopping by.

Beata Stasak profile image

Beata Stasak 6 years ago from Western Australia

I hate smoking but you are right, it always affects only 'the little people' and that is not right. With the personal freedom you are spot on. We all need to have a choice and take responsibility even for our own health into our own hands. This is what I was also refering to in my 'Chinese success' question on the hub. I loved your detailed answer and I also believe that 'new pseudo capitalist/socialist economic model' may be once a success - economically but that is where you have been referring to as well. I just wonder it is possible to model country only on it's economic success, as you have already found out with your 'banning smoking companies' article, people freedom is important too. Born and raised in Communist country /recently living in Capitalist country - Australia/ I understand both sides - one thing is hard to understand for Westerners enjoying the freedom of protest - YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PROTEST IN COMMUNIST COUNTRY EVEN IF YOU ARE CAUGHT TO THINK ABOUT IT YOU ARE PUT IN PRISON so who do you think will protest against oppressive although economically successful regime in China? You bet on it that it would not be Chinese citizens.

Thank you again for raising this issue and your detailed comment. If you have time to spare please visit me on my blogs:

Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Well, I'm not sure that I believe that a country can ultimately have entire control over their people. Totally communist, yes. There is a lot of power in those countries to hold their people back. People fear and therefore choose not to oppose their governments.

In the case of China's model, that's where economic growth comes into play. It becomes increasinly possible for people to become self-reliant, rather than having to be reliant on their government. Communist countries succeed in controlling their citizens because they (the citizens) need the government to provide for their needs essentially. That creates a pretty strong hold. Even a government controlled capitalism will offer a better opportunity for the Chinese people to gain power for themselves, and certainly will bolster their ability to be self-reliant. The more this becomes true, the less hold, and the less power the Chinese government will be able to impose on its people.

In the case of these companies attempting to enforce policy that intrudes on a worker's personal life, it is much the same thing—so long as employees are less self-reliant, living paycheck to paycheck, they are absolutely at the whim of the company they work for. The company will, therefore, have more power and control over what their employees do in every aspect of their lives. It's why I said that one of the ways that this can be combatted is to live below your means, keep yourself in a position to make choice rather than be forced to do something because you have to. If you have choice, the power is yours. Not the company's. And certainly not a government's.

I appreciated your comments and thanks for coming in for a visit.

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I think you hit the nail on the head when you referred to smoking as a "personal freedom." Yes, it is, just like drinking beer, eating fish fries, and watching sports! Okay, maybe I sound a bit like a patriot, but whatever. The first thought that was screaming inside my head when first I read the title to this hub was,"Wait a minute! Isn't firing someone for being a smoker an act of discrimination?" In such a case, the list could well go on and on!

I really enjoyed hearing your point of view here and wholeheartedly agree with you on just about all aspects. And for the record, I am a smoker unfortunately. Lucky for me (however) my boss and the guy above him are smokers too! Thank you for sharing this.


Springboard profile image

Springboard 6 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Great to see you here, Dohn. Yeah, I have to say it crossed my mind when I was writing it that, if you think about it, the guys at the top actually have a tendency to live unhealthier lives than those at the bottom. All those steaks and buttered lobsters, crab legs, the richest salmon, fine cigars, top notch wines and other alcoholic beverages. My grandfather's brother-in-law died in his 60s of a heart attack, and he was a multi-millionaire. He lived the good life and the good life got the best of him. My grandfather just passed away earlier this month, and he was 93.

Not sure what the statistics on that are. But it sure makes me wonder. :)

Beth100 profile image

Beth100 5 years ago from Canada

Working within the health care sector, I see many patients come and go with illnesses related to smoking. The costs are astronomical -- so high, that there is a class action of several provinces suing tobacco companies to shoulder a portion of the cost of health services to the buyers that they provide the poison to.

Every corporation has the right to enforce a policy, as long as it is within the confines of the corporation. All hospitals and schools grounds here are non-smoking. There are designated spots off hospital grounds for patients/visitors to use. It becomes the choice of the person as to whether they want to venture out (especially in the cold) to take a puff or two. The individuals right is not taken from them but they are made aware that there is a non-smoking policy in place before being hired. There is also a smoking cessation offered to all patients and smoking employees. The choice is theirs to continue smoking or to stop.

As for firing because they are smokers -- it happens but not because they are smokers but rather because their habit affects their productivity in the sense that they spend more time outside smoking than the collective agreements allow (which, they have agreed to prior to employment). The 15 minute breaks become 30 minutes or longer, especially when they have to dress up in winter clothing before heading outside.

There is no pleasing the masses -- the health nuts will applaud, the smokers will scream injustice. Ah, balance is difficult to achieve.....

Springboard profile image

Springboard 5 years ago from Wisconsin Author

Beth100, what makes your point moot is the fact that just like most companies who do not offer bonuses or pensions to regular workers, but rather only to their CEOs, these rules will ONLY apply to regular workers and not CEOs. It would be perfectly acceptable, for example, for that same CEO who poses rules like these to have a bottle of fine brandy in his office cabinet, as well as a box of fine cigars. That same CEO may indulge in rich foods, which could affect his health. I do not think that employers should have any business evaluating their employees, or hiring or firing employees on the basis of anything but performance.

This is a free country. Jobs are something we all need in order to pursue that freedom to the utmost. When government and employers overplay their hand, that freedom goes away, and we aren't really all that free.

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