The “smoke-free workplace” movement began in the 70’s and 80’s with few complaints or dissenting voices. It began with concerns about smoking Beverly cigarettes online aboard commercial flights and the concentration of smoke within such a confined space. The concern was very reasonable and most smokers accepted the restrictions.

It has now been extended to almost all work places, restaurants and bars, public facilities and even outdoor areas like parks and sports stadiums. Personally, I am happy to not be exposed to second hand smoke and I am in support of most of these bans on a personal level, if not entirely on a constitutional level.

The “smoke-free workplace” movement has morphed even further into the “smoker-free workplace.” Drudge has a story posted titled “Only Non-Smokers Need Apply At Baylor.” Baylor University has announced that not only is no smoking allowed on their campuses, but Baylor will not hire anyone that smokes or uses tobacco in any way, citing the high cost of health care for smokers.

Baylor is not the first large employer to come to this decision. Others include the World Health Organization, Scott’s Miracle-Gro, Crown laboratories, Medical Mutual, Clarian Health (where I once worked, in Indianapolis) and several others. Some have even gone so far as to fire employees that were hired before these new policies were instituted. All claim that the policy is not discriminatory because it is based upon the costs incurred by smokers both in health care and lost productivity. Further they claim that it is a behavior that in responsible for these costs and not a physical or genetic malady.

But is tobacco use the only behavior that costs employers in health care expenses and lost productivity?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):

At least one of every five ED [emergency department] visits for an injury results from participation in sports or recreation. In 1999 [the numbers have more than doubled in 2010], Americans made an estimated 1.5 million ED visits for injuries sustained while playing basketball, baseball, softball, football, or soccer. Approximately 715,000 sports and recreation injuries occur each year in school settings alone. Injuries are also a leading reason people stop participating in potentially beneficial physical activity.
Few data exist about injury incidence and prevalence, costs, relative risks of injury from different activities, risk and protective factors, and effective programs to prevent [sports]injuries. While some ED surveillance data are available, they exclude the large proportion of SRE injuries that are treated in primary care settings, sports medicine clinics, orthopedic clinics, and chiropractic clinics.

The epidemic of obesity has resulted in an exponential rise in heart and vascular disease, orthopedic problems, kidney disease, diabetes and near incapacitation for many sufferers. As medical director for a large emergency medical service I had to order the purchase of new ambulance gurneys because our previous equipment was only rated for 450 lbs! We had to upgrade, at considerable cost, to gurneys rated for 650lbs. The cost of obesity is perhaps as high as 160 billion dollars per year.

Homosexual behavior also costs many billions in health care and lost work.

Gay websites, medical journals, psychological journals, and Centers for Disease Control all conclude that homosexual behavior results in greater risk for the following:

AIDS, Hepatitis A, B & C; many kinds of sexually transmitted diseases; anal cancer & other cancers; higher rates of alcohol dependence; tobacco use at 50% higher rates; eating disorders; high rates of psychiatric illnesses, including depression, drug abuse, and suicide attempts; debilitating health; and reduced life span (up to 20 years). The Archives of Internal Medicine found that homosexuals acquired syphilis at a rate ten times that of heterosexuals.

One study concludes that 66% of AIDS is found in 2% of the population.

The lifetime cost for treating a person with HIV from infection until death is estimated at $154,402. The average total lifetime charges for care of children with HIV infection is estimated at $491,936. The annual expense for treating a case of advanced AIDS is $34,000.”

Clearly, use of tobacco is not the only behavior that costs employers (and taxpayers) enormous amounts of money. But none of the employers mentioned above, or any employers anywhere that I could find, have instituted polices similar to those relating to smoking. None have established policies banning the obese, sports and fitness aficionados, or most certainly, homosexuals from the workplace.

For some people to be denied economic opportunity because of a legal behavior that they might engage in while not at work is absolutely discriminatory when we see that other behaviors contribute equally or even moreso to the high costs of health care and lost productivity. Some smart lawyers are going to file a huge class-action lawsuit against these employers and they’ll win.

I quit smoking cigarettes over thirty years ago and it would please me to no end if tobacco could be outlawed in the U.S. That won’t happen because government is addicted to the large revenues smokers contribute to their treasuries annually. Also, a black market and organized crime would surely soon fill the demand for the illegal substance. As long as it is legal let’s try to be a little more tolerant of the unfortunate souls that suffer the addiction to nicotine.