Privacy Wars III: Revenge of the Smokers

About two months ago I posted a couple times (here and here) about the disturbing trend of employers refusing to hire smokers. I think (and argued) that it’s an invasion of privacy to tell someone they are not allowed to smoke on their own time, in their own home — but it is happening more and more often. Frequently the cited reason is reduced health care costs for the company.

Today, Larry Elder takes that argument an amusing step further: he uses precisely the same argument forwarded for firing (or refusing to hire) smokers, and suggests these companies could likewise refuse to hire Democrats.

Go forth and read.

3 Responses to “Privacy Wars III: Revenge of the Smokers”

  1. Jeff Harrell Says:

    Axiom: I do not agree with the proposition that any American has a right to any job for which they are qualified.

    Taking a job is fundamentally a transaction between two consenting parties. You want a salary; I want an employee. We conduct an amicable exchange.

    As such, either party has the right to back out of the deal before it’s closed for any reason whatsoever. If I ask you whether you smoke, you can choose whether or not to answer me. If you decline, I can choose whether or not to offer you the job.

    There are many reasons why I might decline to hire a person who smokes. The health-care costs are well established. There’s also the public-relations aspect. I would not hire an outside salesman who smokes simply because people who smoke smell terrible. The best way to lose business is to come into an office or other place of business exuding a foul and offensive odor.

    Point is, it’s my choice.

    I am a staunch supporter of the use of public-nusiance laws to prohibit the practice of smoking. I lived in an apartment about two years ago, on the second floor of a two-story building. The person who lived below me smoked, making it effectively impossible for me to open my windows. Where I live I’m lucky enough to have about six months a year of open-windows weather, and my downstairs neighbor deprived me of it by pumping noxious odors into my apartment via our windows. I ended up moving to get away from it. Gosh, that was a great apartment.

    Elder’s argument is silly because there’s a strict causation between smoking and the reasons not to hire smokers. Smoking does cause increased health-care expenses because smokers pay more for insurance. Smoking does cause an offensive personal appearance which does reflect negatively on the company. These aren’t mere correlations. They’re causations.

    Elder points to loose correlations between Democrats and actuarial tables and pats himself on the back for his cleverness.

    I guess I’m just a fuddy-duddy, but I see neither wisdom nor humor there.

  2. Strider Says:

    This post in particular wasn’t meant to be a strong argument so much as an amusing addendum to what came before.

    Though I didn’t reiterate most of my previous arguments, my primary point in those posts (here’s the link again: ), was that socialized systems by definition lead to invasions of privacy, which is yet another argument against socialism. (No, I don’t think Mr. Elders’ argument is particularly solid, but I don’t think the arguments for firing smokers _purely because they smoke_ are solid either.)

    Though your other arguments have some merit, I should note that in the real incidences I cited, none of the employers are citing any of those “other” reasons . All of them are citing “health care costs”.

    RE: smokers smelling bad: I know a lot of smokers who don’t “smell like smokers”. Others you can smell a mile away. Fire them because they are physically offensive? Fine. Fire them because they had a cigarette last night? Not fine.

    Restating an argument from a previous post — there are studies that show that religious people are healthier (and this link is arguably causative). Should your employer hire or fire you because you’re not religious enough? (or not the “right” religion?) The Law of the Land, for the most part, says “no”.

    You said, “I do not agree with the proposition that any American has a right to any job for which they are qualified.” I agree, but I also believe (and the law concurs) that there are limits to the reasons you can refuse to hire. I am flatly _not_ allowed to refuse to hire a woman because of the “increased health care costs” related to the possibility of her getting pregnant.

    Again, please do read the previous posts if the discussion interests you — this post was more “fluff” than debate.

  3. Strider Says:

    I’m closing comments on this entry. Comments are still open on the previous post:

Comments are invited and encouraged

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