Sarasota County in Southwest Florida has just announced it will no longer be hiring smokers. In the interest of taxpayers, the county hopes to cultivate a less expensive and more productive work force.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking employees cost an extra $3,400 a year in health care and lost productivity costs.
While it saves resources, Sarasota County doesn't have to worry about being slapped with a discrimination lawsuit — in 1995, Florida's supreme court ruled that smokers are legal victims of employment discrimination. Still, other counties in Florida take a less extreme approach, hiring smokers, while requiring them to pay more for health care, and attend smoking cessation classes.
Is it fair to exclude even super-productive smokers based on a broad statistic? Does the county have an obligation to cut costs, and thus refuse to hire smokers? Will this type of discrimination eventually lead to a smoke free America? Should employers refuse to hire individuals based on other bad habits and health problems?