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Thursday, Sep. 1, 2016

Smoking isn't only health care worry

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I guess it was just a matter of time. A city councilman from Central Florida is proposing that smokers be banned from city jobs. He wants all job applicants to indicate if they smoke and, if so, they will not be considered for a city job.

I'm a smoker and it's hard to defend the habit. It's nasty and has major health implications but so does alcohol abuse and obesity. Funny how the councilman omitted these issues.

Smokers are more prone to health issues and, on average, cost $1,600 additional dollars a year in health care expenses. But alcohol abusers and obese workers also add to the health expense. It may be popular to attack smokers but, when you examine the facts, it's a bone-headed approach.

If we're going to adopt a litmus test for hiring, then we'd better look at some of those issues that truly impact health care expenses. The government just recently issued a report on the cost of obesity to the medical community. The numbers run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. Perhaps the councilman missed that report.

I assume there's a statistic out there somewhere but I would imagine that lost productivity from obesity and alcohol abuse might outdistance that of smokers. We have statistics for everything else, I would assume there's one for that question as well.

Here's the bottom line. Smoking is stupid. But so is obesity and alcohol abuse. If you start imposing a ban based strictly on health care issues, you'd better be careful. That argument might return to snap you in the fanny.

If you want to reduce health care expenses, try an incentive to encourage people to quit smoking. And then make sure that incentive also applies to the obese and those who abuse alcohol. Before long, you might wonder where all the workers are because we've banned every conceivable shortcoming in life.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen