Many Georgia Hospitals have outlawed smoking on their campuses. Many others have even gone as far as to state they will no longer hire employees who smoke, and they will discipline their current employees who are caught smoking. This topic really is not directly related to what I do. However, the issue has hit many large facilities in our State, and it is very interesting from a legal and moral standpoint.
Georgia is a particularly easy State to enforce these sorts of bans in, because it does not have a smoker’s rights statute, as 29 other states do. In addition, smokers are not currently considered a protected class by Federal Law, so none of the Federal employment discrimination laws seem to apply. The facilities that have these bans feel that banning smoking, a practice proven to increase your chance of disease and death, is part of their overall mission to promote the wellbeing of their patients and staff. They take a lead by example approach.
It does not appear that anyone has successfully come up with a creative way to legally challenge these policies; however, the policies do beg the moral question of how much interference into the private life of employees is too much? After all, there is nothing illegal about smoking. Proponents of these policies will argue that smoking decreases a person’s personal health and therefore decreases their quality of life and work, which directly affects the employer. In the Healthcare arena, proponents will further argue that Hospitals and their employees are supposed to propose the utmost picture of Health to the community. I think both of those are pretty weak arguments. After all, why pick just on smoking? Why not pick on lunch time fast food breaks, after work happy hours, and those who ride motorcycles to work?
I have to admit I dislike smoking. I am not a smoker- never have been. I personally think it is a nasty habit. I prefer smoke free environments, and I understand why the Hospital would want to promote one. However, I also believe in a person’s right to choose their own private habits. I may not smoke, but I’m sure I have some habits that aren’t the best for my health. One such habit is the Coke I am drinking as I write this post! Should all the soft drink machines be removed from hospitals? What do you think?