BLR News

2/22/2005 Poll on Firing Smokers Gets Safety Pros, Well… Lit Up

Old Saybrook, CT--February 22, 2005--Employers shouldn't be allowed to fire workers who smoke away from work, according to nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of those who participated in an online poll at, a website that makes safety training and compliance easier.

Twenty percent of respondents said employers should be allowed to fire someone who smokes in non-work hours. The remaining 8 percent said they were unsure. Firing smokers is a hot-button topic--more than 900 people cast their votes in the poll, conducted from February 8 through February 18.

A way to control healthcare costs? conducted the poll after an employer in Michigan implemented a policy prohibiting employees from smoking, even in non-work hours. Weyco Inc., a benefits administrator based in Okemos, Michigan, gave workers time to quit and initiated a mandatory testing program. The founder of the company, Howard Weyers, says he's trying to fight rising healthcare costs with the no-smoking policy.

Michigan has no law protecting smokers from discrimination, but more than half of U.S. states have laws with some sort of protection.

Sean Dean, editor at, predicted that more employers facing double-digit healthcare cost increases will implement similar policies if their state allows them. "Something has to give in healthcare, and smokers are an easy target. They tend to become sick more frequently and more seriously, miss more work, and take more breaks. We're even beginning to see companies that are asking employees to state that none of their dependents are smokers," he added.

Critics of no-smoking policies that cover non-work hours wonder whether employers will try barring other employee activities that take place outside of work, such as alcohol consumption.

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Sean Dean Associate Editor
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