Monday, April 19, 2010

Florida City to Consider Ordinance to Fire City Employees Who Smoke

Tonight, the Brooksville City Council (near Tampa, Florida) will consider an ordinance which would prohibit smoking by city employees and fire those employees who continue to smoke.

To make it clear, we are not talking about prohibiting smoking at work or continuing to smoke in the workplace. We are talking about smoking in one's private home, off-the-job.

According to the proposed policy, city workers who smoke or use smokeless tobacco would be given one year to quit or face disciplinary action, including termination.

According to an article in Hernando Today: "Mayor Lara Bradburn said she supports the creation of a tobacco-free workplace and any program that encourages employees to quit smoking. She also agrees with the practice of not hiring people who smoke. "There's no reason people should smoke," Bradburn said. "Nothing good ever came from smoking." Referring to smoking as the root of all evil — particularly following her mother's troubles with the habit — Bradburn said that eliminating tobacco use would help decrease city insurance rates — at cost savings to taxpayers — while helping employees be healthier."

The article suggests that the policy would allow employees to avoid termination by enrolling in a smoking cessation program.

According to the agenda for tonight's meeting, the City Council will meet at 7:00 p.m. and take up the smoking issue as the third item on its regular agenda.

The Rest of the Story

Enough is enough already.

This movement to ban smokers from employment has gotten out of control. Now, not only does the Brooksville mayor want to ban smokers from seeking employment with the city, but she apparently wants to fire the existing smokers if they don't quit.

The exact same reasoning being used to support this policy could also be used to support firing obese or overweight employees. The health care costs associated with obesity and overweight are enormous (rivaling if not surpassing those associated with smoking). Why isn't the Brooksville City Council also considering an ordinance to fire all overweight or obese employees if they do not get their weight under control in one year?

What about employees who drink alcohol excessively? Those who do not get enough exercise? Those who don't use sunscreen? Those who go to tanning salons? Those who fail to wear seat belts? Those who do not get annual mammograms? Those who do not get regular colonoscopies? Those who eat high-fat diets? Those who do not get their cholesterol under control?

The fact that the city is apparently going to allow smokers to continue to be employed as long as they enroll in a smoking cessation program suggests that the policy has nothing to do with health, a healthy workforce, a healthy environment, or controlling health costs. If that were the case, then it wouldn't matter whether an employee enrolled in a smoking cessation program. All that would matter is if the employee quit smoking or not.

The fact that enrolling in a smoking cessation program is enough to appease the powers in Brooksville suggests that this policy is not about health at all, but is actually about lifestyle control. The city council doesn't like the idea that people smoke, so it is going to coerce them to quit, or at least to enter a smoking cessation program. Other unhealthy behaviors are fine, but smoking - not acceptable.

In addition to being blatant employment discrimination, this policy is a clear and unwarranted intrusion into employee privacy. The Council should reject it outright.

If any readers in the Tampa area are able to attend the meeting tonight, I would appreciate a report on the discussion and outcome of tonight's meeting.

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