USA Today opines that when a company refuses to hire anyone who smokes tobacco it “crosses a troubling line.” The newspaper singles out Dallas’ own Baylor Health Care System, which formalized its anti-smoking policy as of January 1, in an editorial:
Treating smoking, in essence, like illegal drug use takes Baylor and an increasing number of other employers down a dangerous road, one that extends far too deeply into the private lives of prospective workers.
Joel Allison, the CEO of Baylor, discussed the ban with me during our recent breakfast at the Original Pancake House on Lemmon Avenue. The policy is not limited merely to smokers but includes use of any nicotine products:
“Is that legal?” I ask him, only half-serious.
“We would not do anything that would be considered illegal,” he says, completely serious. “We’re in the healthcare business, so we want people to practice good health.”
Allison also believes it’s important for Baylor to do what it can to keep its own costs down. Before this all-out ban, the company had already placed a surcharge on smokers who participated in its health insurance plan.Â “Five percent of the population uses up about 50 percent of the health care cost,” he says.
To which USA Today declares a SLIPPERY SLOPE ALERT:
If employers routinely reject people who engage in risky, but legal, behavior on their own time, what about such things as overeating or drinking too much alcohol? If smoker bans reduce health care expenses, cost-conscious employers might be tempted to stake out new and even more intrusive territory under the “wellness program” banner. A bit further down the road lies hiring based on genetics. In that world, inheriting a gene that shows a predisposition to a costly disease could cost you a job.
Wow. Suddenly we’re living in Gattaca: