Monday, February 25, 2008

Michigan Legislators Ask State Universities Not to Hire Smokers

According to an article in the Lansing State Journal, two Michigan state Senators have urged the presidents of the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Michigan State University to save the state money by refusing to hire smokers.

According to the article: "Leaders of Michigan's three largest research universities appeared before the state Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday hoping to hold onto a proposed budget increase by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. But at least two senators had a favor of their own to ask: Help us get the state's health care costs under control. Sen. Thomas George, R-Kalamazoo, challenged the presidents of the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Michigan State University to find ways to make Michigan's population healthier, going so far as to ask the presidents to refuse to hire smokers. "Where can universities help us make the population healthier? I'm not talking building new buildings. I'm talking about changing the behavior of the state's population," George said. The request came in the first of a series of meetings between the committee and the presidents of the state's public universities as the budget is set for the next year. ... Sen. Bill Hardiman, R-Kentwood, echoed George's challenge. "It's a huge asset for the state of Michigan," he said of the University Research Corridor universities, "and you could have a major impact" in controlling health care costs."

The Rest of the Story

For the Michigan state university system to adopt such blatant employment discrimination would be disgraceful. And for state legislators to suggest that employment discrimination be instituted in order to save the state health care costs is troublesome.

We need to be trying to eliminate discrimination, not to institutionalize it.

Why should a university specifically not hire the most qualified teachers, researchers, and other faculty members, administrators, and staff for positions at its schools? It makes no sense.

If the point is to save money, then the university could save a lot more money by simply refusing to hire fat people as well. The health care costs of obesity mirror those of smoking. So the university should cleanse itself not only of smoking professors, but of fat professors as well.

The next to go should be those with high-fat diets, high in cholesterol and trans-fats. They are heart attacks waiting to happen, and why should the university hire those individuals when they could just as easily hire thin, nonsmoking vegetarian professors with low cholesterol levels and high consumption of organic fruits and vegetables?

The universities could save a lot of money by doing a sort of health cleansing of its personnel. Simply refuse to hire anyone with any personal behaviors or characteristics that pose risks for illness or disease. The first thing every job applicant should be required to do at her job interview is to step on a scale. Even better, a body fat analyzer.

Then, they should provide a urine sample to be tested for cotinine. Those with any measurable cotinine should be refused employment. After all, even 30 minutes of secondhand smoke can cause an immediate heart attack. Why take the risk of having to pay health care costs associated with that? Just refuse to hire anyone who reports that he is ever around secondhand smoke.

A dietary questionnaire should follow. Then, the applicant should be asked about his or her physical activity and exercise regimen. Finally, an inquiry into the applicant's sexual behavior. If time permits, the university hiring personnel might actually ask a couple of questions about the applicant's qualifications for the job.

This kind of discrimination and bigotry has no place in education. Or anywhere else for that matter.

I still believe that if any U.S. anti-smoking group would speak out against this discrimination, the move to deny employment to smokers would lose steam. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a single U.S. anti-smoking group that has done so. To actually support the rights of people who have chosen to smoke would be heretical.

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