The Daily Gamecock

In our opinion: Smokers should have right to employment

Healthy Carolina isn’t the only organization trying to make life difficult for South Carolina’s smokers. Last week, the South Carolina Hospital Association began to push state legislature to repeal a law prohibiting employers from making hiring decisions based on whether the employee smokes. Smokers, proponents say, cause the state to lose money, and employers should have the right to not hire them.

The Hospital Association claims smokers cost businesses “productivity losses,” but it’s clear this euphemism is just another way to say that they don’t want to pay the extra health care and insurance costs that smoking can incur. However, if proponents of the bill really wish to eradicate all factors that could “decrease productivity” in workers, they’ve got plenty of other things they could be focusing on. Sugary drinks can cause diabetes, attention-deficit disorder can decrease focus in the workplace and having a family can increase the likelihood of the employee taking sick days. Where, then, do we draw the line? Surely it would be outlandish to suggest soda-drinkers should not be hired.

There’s no way proponents could be this short-sighted, which is why we think this bill is just a veiled attempt to address the state’s desire to discourage smoking. If that’s the case, there are more effective ways to achieve this goal than perpetuating joblessness and setting discriminatory precedents. The state could raise our low tobacco taxes, for example, or increase educational programs on smoking.

Discriminating on lifestyle choices shouldn’t be a matter of law. As this bill goes to the Senate subcommittee today, Healthy Carolina, the Hospital Association and its supporters should remember this.


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