Smokers Need Not Apply: Is Hiring Ban Trend of the Future?

For about two decades, smokers have been pushed steadily out of the workplace, as lawmakers and employers have sought to minimize exposure to second-hand smoke.

Employers have confined smokers to designated areas, moved smoking areas outside buildings, and limited smoking breaks. Now, some companies are opting to push smokers out of the workplace altogether.

That’s the case with the Massachusetts Hospital Association (MHA), an employer of 45 that announced earlier this month it would no longer hire people who smoke. The firm is the first private employer in Massachusetts to take such a step, though several others elsewhere — such as the Cleveland Clinic, a medical center based in Ohio; Alaska Airlines; and Union Pacific Railroad — have also stopped hiring smokers.

Supporters of the hire-no-smokers policy say it will provide smoke-free work environments and help employers control their health-care costs. But critics argue it’s a form of discrimination that, moreover, intrudes into the private lifestyle choices of prospective employees.

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