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Ethical business questions: not hiring smokers, fly by weight

Ethical business questions: not hiring smokers, fly by weight

A couple of business decisions raise ethical questions:

The New England Journal of Medicine, Harald Schmidt, Ph.D., Kristin Voigt, Ph.D., and Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., explores in depth the ethics of not hiring smokers (or issuing penalties to those who smoke, or incentives to cease).

Finding employment is becoming increasingly difficult for smokers. Twenty-nine U.S. states have passed legislation prohibiting employers from refusing to hire job candidates because they smoke, but 21 states have no such restrictions. Many health care organizations…now have a policy of not hiring smokers — a practice opposed by 65% of Americans, according to a 2012 poll by Harris International. We agree with those polled, believing that categorically refusing to hire smokers is unethical: it results in a failure to care for people, places an additional burden on already-disadvantaged populations, and preempts interventions that more effectively promote smoking cessation.

In other news, Samona Airlines now determines the cost of flying by the kilo of passenger and luggage. Chief Executive Chris Langton is quoted in

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is the concept of the future. We always weigh the mass that is on an aircraft. And that always has to pay for the transportation, it doesn’t matter whether you are carrying freight or people.  Anyone who travels at times has felt they have been paying for half of the passenger next to them. The standard width and pitch of the seat are changing as people are getting a bit bigger wider and taller than they were 40-50 years ago.”

The Telegraph carried an earlier story by David Millward where the idea of pay your weight was floated in the Journal of Revenue and Pricing Management publication, by Bharat P Bhatta, an academic in Norway. He suggested three ways to implement such a system.

Your thoughts on the ethics of these proposals/practices?


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I agree with both the article and Joecarrel (who commentted above). Smokers should not be discriminated against in the hiring process as long as smoking is a legal activity. This could be compared to the idea of not hiring a person who uses a tanning bed because it makes the boss feel too pale.

However, I also agree with the employer’s right to ban smoking in the workplace (as well as anywhere on the property of the workplace), and to ban any employee from carrying the odor of cigarette smoke (be in on their breath or clothing). It’s a health issue and more individuals are sensitive to the smell than many of us realize.

I feel I can speak to this subject as I am a smoker who works in a healthcare institution.

Cullin R. Schooley

Gary Paul Gilbert

Singling out any group for discrimination is wrong. As The New England Journal of Medicine article says, employers can help educate employees about healthy living.

The main criterion in hiring ought to be if the candidate will be able to do the job.

Gary Paul Gilbert


I am terribly allergic to cigarette smoke, even third hand carried on smokers’ clothing. I would not hesitate to make hiring decisions based on smoking.

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