Illegally violating smokers’ rights always wrong

January 20, 2012 Editorials Print Print

Recently, certain companies are using drug tests to determine whether prospective employees use nicotine products. Those who do aren’t hired.

Jeremy Cloud

Civil rights 101: regulating a legal behavior that a private individual engages in on his or her own time is discrimination.

But smokers aren’t a protected class, of course.

So discrimination is OK, because it’s for the better health of the public overall, and the health of the smoker in particular, right?

So let’s stop hiring overweight individuals. After all, being overweight carries just as many health risks as smoking.


Or how about we regulate sexual behavior? Unprotected sex carries the risk of a number of diseases ranging from those curable with antibiotics to those that require a lifetime of ongoing therapy just to manage.

Why hire people who put themselves and others at risk of serious harm?

Better yet, let’s stop hiring the terminally ill. Is an individual who has a better than average chance of taking sick days, or who may die soon, worth the cost of training or insurance?

If the thought of denying jobs across the board based on terminal illness, physical fitness, or personal morality sounds sickening or frightening, that’s because it is.

Such behavior is prejudiced and discriminatory and would render unemployable a vast population of individuals.

So, discrimination is OK, as long as the group affected is minimal — just like the mindset that it’s OK to discriminate against homosexuals, African Americans, or Muslims?

Smoking may not be an unchangeable part of who a person is, as many minorities are.

But it is the protected right of an individual to engage in legal behavior on his or her own time.

At what point are the rights of the individual less important than the rights of a majority?

Or, simply put: are we, as individuals, willing to allow others to be discriminated against, and risk that we might be next?

Click here to read Online Editor Whitney Knight’s thoughts on smokers’ rights.

To contact Jeremy Cloud, email

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