Smokers finally face the music

January 20, 2012 Editorials Print Print

As if lung cancer and rotted teeth weren’t enough, smokers now face another risk from their nicotine addiction: it could cost them a potential job.

Whitney Knight

Across the U.S., many employers — primarily hospitals and health departments — have implemented not only a no-smoking ban, but also a no-smokers ban. They won’t hire applicants whose urine tests positive for nicotine use.

This writer only has one question: What took so long?

Banning smokers from the workplace would not only have a significant effect on the health of employees, but also on companies themselves.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking and the results of secondhand smoke cost companies $92 billion in productivity losses every year.

On average, smokers miss twice as much work as their non-smoking co-workers. When you factor in their frequent smoke breaks, that equals hours of lost work time every week.

Before OCCC banned smoking on campus, a troupe of my smoking co-workers would file out of the office for a 10-minute smoke break at the top of the hour every day.

In a typical workday, that would add up to more than an hour of inactivity.

Now, those same co-workers take an even larger chunk of time out of their day to pile into someone’s car and drive across the street.

It’s about time the line gets drawn.

A regulation banning smoking employees went into effect at the Baylor Health Care System in Texas this month, and already smoking proponents have cried foul, citing discrimination.

Employers cannot consider things like race, gender, or ethnicity when hiring an employee, because these factors — unlike the decision to smoke — are not a choice.

They also cannot consider religion, which may be a choice — but not one that carries the risk of making co-workers ill the way smokers might.

According to, non-smokers are exposed to secondhand smoke at work more than anywhere else. More than 50,000 people die every year due to diseases brought on by secondhand smoke.

Most companies wouldn’t hire a criminal who might pose a threat to those around them, so why should they hire a walking health hazard?

Click here to read Editor Jeremy Cloud’s thoughts on smokers’ rights.

To contact Whitney Knight, email

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