In an "opposing view" published today in USA Today, Dr. Paul Terpeluk - Cleveland Clinic's medical director of Employee Health Services - defends the Cleveland Clinic's policy of not hiring smokers.
His main argument: "As a health care institution, whose inherent mission is healing the sick and cultivating a healthier community, does it make sense to support a habit that leads to disease, disability and death? ... At Cleveland Clinic, we have a unique perspective on the burden of chronic disease. We not only treat disease, but we also play a vital role in educating patients and employees about lifestyle choices. It is only right to practice what we preach. Banning smoking and smokers is a crucial part of that, and part of a broader theme that includes banning transfats, offering free gym memberships, removing sugar-laden drinks from campus vending machines, and rewarding employees who make healthy decisions with lower insurance premiums."
The Rest of the Story
There are four major problems with Dr. Terpeluk's argument:
1. The Cleveland Clinic is, by the same reasoning, a supporter of physical inactivity, overeating, reckless driving, and promiscuity.
If hiring smokers is supporting the habit of smoking, then hiring overweight individuals is supporting physical inactivity and lousy diets. Since the Cleveland Clinic hires overweight individuals, by its own admission, the Cleveland Clinic supports physical inactivity, overeating, poor nutrition, consumption of high-fat food, and a couch potato lifestyle.
Moreover, since the Cleveland Clinic is willing to hire people who do not wear seat belts, who speed on the roadways, who have unsafe sex, and who use tanning salons, the Cleveland Clinic is therefore a supporter of reckless driving, promiscuity, and skin cancer.
2. The Cleveland Clinic apparently does support smoking - a habit that leads to disease, disability and death.
The Cleveland Clinic does hire smokers. In fact, a large number of smokers are employed at its hospitals and medical centers. The only smokers who are not allowed to work at the Cleveland Clinic are new applicants. By continuing to employ smokers, the Cleveland Clinic, by its own argument, is supporting smoking, and with that, disease, disability, and death.
3. The Cleveland Clinic apparently does not support smoking cessation using nicotine replacement therapy.
By its own argument, since the Cleveland Clinic will not hire ex-smokers who have quit using NRT and are still using the NRT to stay off cigarettes, the Cleveland Clinic does not support smoking cessation using NRT.
4. The Cleveland Clinic apparently supports white collar crime and pornography.
Since the Cleveland Clinic is willing to hire an individual who is suspected of having committed crime, including the viewing of pornography on his work computer, the Cleveland Clinic apparently supports crime and pornography. As I revealed yesterday, the Cleveland Clinic has hired the former director of the Kansas Bioscience Authority, who is under criminal investigation and has had to hire a leading white collar criminal defense lawyer to defend him.
The rest of the story is that the Cleveland Clinic should have been more careful in its frantic search for arguments to support its unjustified policy of employment discrimination. Sometimes the arguments you make can come back to haunt you.
(Thanks to Harry for the tip).