Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Where There's Smoke, You're Fired

14. March 2005 • MarkDilley
Email this article

As much as I don’t like cigarettes, I don’t think criminalization is the answer.

“Smoking is frequently in the news. Weyco, a Michigan-based health care benefits company, announced recently that it would terminate any employees who persisted in smoking, on or off the job.”

via Workers Comp Insider



  1. “Criminalizing” is not the right word here, Weyco isn’t a law enforcement agency and isn’t arresting anyone. “Firable offense” is what you want.

    But, I agree with you, I don’t think someone should be fired for smoking off the job.
       —tom    Mar. 14 '05 - 06:34PM    #
  2. Me either. Whether we’re talking tobacco or otherwise. However, they should be fired if they’re flaky or forgetful, etc., if that’s a result of the (ab)use of a particular drug.

    Actually, (ever the universal health care advocate I am) this particular case is really a symptom of the employer-centric healthcare system we have in the US. Basically, this employer only wants to hire people without unhealthy behaviors to minimize their health care costs. If he wasn’t worried about those costs, he wouldn’t have a case.
       —Scott    Mar. 14 '05 - 06:40PM    #
  3. i think mayor bloomberg of nyc should propose that all smokers be forced into small neighborhoods…then, just to be on the safe side, we’ll give them yellow badges…and when bush cuts the amtrak lines to michigan, we can use those to take the nation’s smokers to “relocation camps…”

    smoke-free uber alles,
    ari p.
       —Ari P.    Mar. 14 '05 - 07:27PM    #
  4. Hi Tom, I appreciate your thoughts on my word use, but I did pick criminalization based on one of the definitions of the word:

    To treat as a criminal.

    I think it would be fair to say that getting fired for smoking during non work hours fits that definition.
       —Mark    Mar. 14 '05 - 08:34PM    #
  5. I think firing is extreme. I would find it understandable to suspend health care coverage (assuming any exists) for smokers, or charging extra premiums. Or just specifying that the health care package does not cover any condition found to be caused by smoking if the sufferer has not since ceased smoking. That last is vastly preferable, of course, due to the privacy concerns that the other methods involve.
       —Murph    Mar. 14 '05 - 08:55PM    #
  6. You know, since you’re more likely to die in a car accident than of cancer, they should fire anyone who drives to work.
    Just sayin’.
    (And the proper response is to not give your money to Weyco. I don’t shop at Home Depot because I disagree with their policy of drug testing.)
       —js    Mar. 15 '05 - 02:24PM    #
  7. js,

    To be completely cold-blooded about this, from the employer’s point of view, it’s not dying that’s the problem, it’s the process of dying that’s the problem. Getting killed in a car crash is relatively inexpensive. Your family gets the life insurance payout and that ’s it. But dying of lung cancer is really expensive because of all the medical care required. For employers for whom medical insurance premiums are the fastest rising cost of doing business, this is a big deal.
       —tom    Mar. 15 '05 - 05:17PM    #
  8. JS,

    Employers are less concerned with the cost of losing employees entirely than they are of higher health care costs induced by the personal behavior of their employees. If you die, they don’t have to pay you anymore and can hire someone else. If you get sicker and sicker, you cost them more over the long run…
       —Scott    Mar. 15 '05 - 05:20PM    #
  9. I’d still like to see a law/constitutional ammendment passed that makes employers unable to fire people based on what they do on their own time, so long as it’s not illegal (five states have this).
       —js    Mar. 15 '05 - 08:06PM    #
  10. The Det. News reports that it’s now illegal to smoke at work in suburban Wayne County . I would say, “Huzzah! Maybe this will push jobs back into Detroit!”, but apparently Detroit plans to institute a similar ban next week.
       —Murph    Mar. 18 '05 - 04:46PM    #
  11. Yeah, but in Detroit they’re only making it illegal to smoke crack while at work.
    I kid, I kid!
       —js    Mar. 18 '05 - 04:47PM    #
  12. I believe there is a law that says something to the effect that if a company has more than like 25 employees, the insurance company can not ask any health questions (i.e. Do you smoke?). If this is the case, and I am fairly sure it is, then it should reflect on the company’s premiums whether you smoke or not. I, personally, do not smoke and I am appalled by this.
       —Joshua    May. 14 '05 - 10:55PM    #
  13. You’ve recently scolded me for using the word “racist” in this thing you call the ArborUpdate “community”.

    But in this very thread, I just saw your own ArborUpdate Contributing writer “kid” about his notion of Crack being just all over Detroit, to the point of Crack supposedly flooding into Detroit workplaces, like plain old Marlboros. I don’t want to misquote your writer:

    “Yeah, but in Detroit they are only making it illegal to smoke crack while at work.”

    Then he said he was just kidding.

    Are there no Black or Arab editors in ArborUpdate?

    I’m not so shocked, anymore, to see hatred of Palestinians in ArborUpdate.

    But now it’s your own Contributing Writers “kidding” about how Detroit=Crack, and Crack=Detroit.

    Do I have to spell out what you are saying about Black people?

    You say that ArborUpdate is a “community”, which I guess means it’s not really a journalistic enterprise with any duties to the public.

    Are you feeling at home in your “community”?
       —Blaine. (Are there no Black or Arab editors on ArborUpdate?)    May. 14 '05 - 11:21PM    #