March 13, 2005 at 9:12 pm (Health)

Let me be the first (ok, maybe not THE first) to say that the
anti-smoking hysteria has gotten out of hand. Smoking is unhealthy,
expensive, unattractive, supports global corporate hegemony, and people
shouldn't do it. As a mostly-former user of tobacco products, I can say
that. It's like being black and using the N-word (which I can't do).

However, this is just ridiculous.
Montgomery County, PA is considering a ban on hiring anyone who smokes.
If you want to know why this is just a silly idea, consider this:

"It's really a huge impingement on worker privacy," said Jeremy Gruber,
legal director of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, a
spin-off of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Gruber said it is reasonable for companies to protect worker safety by
enacting no-smoking policies at the job.
He wondered, however, whether employees would have to reveal
hoagie-eating, skydiving, or risky sexual behaviors.

I can understand employers' motivation to reduce their
health care costs, and they sure aren't getting any help from
government. But what's next, testing fat people for elevated
triglyceride levels in their blood? Tell them you won't hire them until
they stop eating at McDonald's and lose some weight? I have a better
idea. Make people who voluntarily engage in legal but self-destructive
behaviors pay their fair share of expected health care costs in each
paycheck. Consider it a down payment on your lung cancer irradiation
therapy and your hip replacement surgery. It's a legitimate argument
that a company could make and not seem paternalistic. "Do whatever the
fuck you want, but damn if we're going to subsidize the consequences."

I like this idea more and more. My former employer covered all of my
health care costs (an unbelievable perk), which by the time I left was
over $1000 per month. They made a point to put it on my paystub, even
though it was separate fom my earnings and taxes. During 4 years of
working there, I visited the doctor exactly thrice. Once it was a
dentist, and once I could have won a malpractice lawsuit. If you
interpolate those costs over the term of my employment, that's almost
50 grand. I often wondered why I couldn't opt out of the system, pocket
the cash, and pay for a doctor when and if I saw fit to consult one. I
realize now the reason had a lot to do with my director needing a cane
to walk to the elevator and see an orthopedic specialist every other
week. A director who weighed 450 pounds and could down 2 cheesestakes
like it was an appetizer.

So the point is, stop telling me what to do. Incentives always work
better than regulations. Let me smoke crack if I want to, if it doesn't
affect my performance on the job it's none of your business. But once I
have to start paying for it, I bet I'll substitute a salad for fries.



  1. jones said,

    this is timely. it should be illegal to discriminate against an employee based on a habit (or disease or handicap or sexual proclivity) that doesn’t affect their performance. i though it was, in fact. good call on paying for your destructive habit – health insurance is higher if you’re a smoker when you buy it on your own, why shouldn’t it be so when you’re buying it through your company?is it the same with crack? i’ve been trying to decide recently if i’d really want drugs legal and, while i’m still not sure if the benefits would outweigh the problems, targeted laws (like drunk driving: crackheaded armed robbery, meth aggravated assault, heroin child neglect) would seem to be the best way to deal with much of the fallout. of course if drugs were legalized and 50% of the population was suddenly addicted to crack it would be a bad idea to legalize drugs.

  2. JB said,

    ” if drugs were legalized and 50% of the population was suddenly addicted to crack …”That’s a red herring. Prohibition does not prevent or really even hinder access in my opinion. Look at you, if you wanted to buy crack tonight you wouldn’t have to go very far. Would you start smoking crack just because you could do it legally?

  3. Underused said,

    Sometimes I think it works the other way. I spent $75 on cuban cigars to bring back to the states. If I could buy them here, do you really think I would have paid that? I don’t even really like cigars that much. But I’ll be damned if the government is going to tell me what to do.But seriously, the people who would be addicted to crack if it were legal are already addicted to crack. It’s not like soccer moms are going to suddenly discover the euphoric high of Little Debbie Crack Cakes and start neglecting their children.

  4. jones said,

    i’m not sure about that. 50% is high, obviously. first of all, i could get some crack right now if i wanted but id have to actively seek it out. how many potentially addicted teenagers just happen to end up at broad and erie? secondly, its a lot tougher to get crack in a town of 10,000 right now (which towns make up much of the US) than it would be if there were a crack store. thirdly, i dont think we represent a significant portion of the population in our purposeful ignorance of law. sure, the lure of the forbidden probably creates a fair amount of addicts, but im not sure that it equals the amount that would be caused by government endorsement. mainly because, for many people (certainly not me or you), law equals morality. i dont think its possible to argue that the number of addicts would remain the same. it would be just like cigarettes or alcohol – young people try it and get addicted.

  5. larry said,

    First, Jbad’s right about the dumb smoking bans (this from a 9-week smoke-free hopefully former smoker).Now to the crack. I’m just going to say it: there should be a double standard. Legalize pot and mushrooms, make ecstasy, LSD, N20 legal by prescription, and outlaw cocaine/crack, heroin and meth. Not all drugs are alike. Do you think we’d have turned out as ok as we did if we’d had some dude standing out in front of our houses slangin’ yay-yo every day? What if we could get a rock as easily as it was to steal a xanax? Or to get liquor for god’s sake?No. Some drugs are just too damn addictive to be legal, period. That’s said with the understanding that making something illegal obviously doesn’t remove it from society. But if cocaine or heroin was as easy to steal as a prescription drug, alot more of the experimental drug users out there would be junkies.I’ve seen what heroin can do to people. You never stop being an addict. Otherwise normal people always have that voice in the back of their heads calling them to Central Ave where they sell crack pipes in the gas stations and cars line up to buy whatever while churchgoers pass by on a Sunday morning (true story). They already do as much business as they can. Imagine if that shit was legal. Which brings me around to the misdirected efforts in the drugwar. Pot? Why waste your fucking time. Heroin. Meth. Coke, and more specifically crack. Those are the drugs doing the true damage.Sorry, you can have your blog back now Jbad.

  6. larry said,

    I should add that by keeping the “evil drugs” illegal, I would also say that an out of control user should be treated as a patient with a disease rather than a criminal. The dealers would be criminals though. You have to draw the line somewhere. Sorry dealers. Deal responsibly and it shouldn’t be a problem.

  7. Underused said,

    I don’t get it: you think “evil drugs” should be illegal, but you don’t think users should be treated as criminals? Then why make it a crime at all? It seems to me, based on your use-as-an-illness idea, that making drug use/possession legal and drug distribution illegal would make more sense. The people with real drug problems are easily identifiable, as they are the people committing crimes to sustain their drug habit. Thus, already under the purview of the legal system for other crimes, they can then be forced into treatment programs. Not that I really believe in the efficacy of treatment programs.Anyway, I still believe all drugs should be legal. I guarantee that crime would decrease by 50%. Gangs and organized crime would be significantly reduced. There would be no more “turf” about which to fight. The non-functioning drug users will find their way into the legal system one way or another, and then they can be sentenced to treament. This is how we deal with alcoholism – does it work all of the time? No, of course not. Probably not even half. But it has proven to be a sustainable way of dealing with a substance abusing public that is, let’s face it, going to find a way to abuse some substance, be it pills, alchohol, illegal narcotics, or something new and exciting that I’ve never even heard of.As for slinging yay-yo to kids: I don’t know, I didn’t abuse pot or alcohol in college because I had my thrills on that in high school. Perhaps if yay had been more readily available and less stigmatized at an earlier age, I wouldn’t have taken to it like a born-again to jesus in my twenties. And god help me if I ever try heroin. I guess I just liken this argument to the gun argument: guns don’t kill people, people do. Take away our guns, and we’re still a nation of deranged murderers. Take away our drugs, and we’re still a nation of substance abusers. The only difference in the method.

  8. JB said,

    Would you have quit smoking earlier if your contribution to your health plan had been 20% higher?I don’t think anyone is suggesting that legalized drugs be sold at gas stations. They would have to be in places more secure than banks.

  9. jones said,

    i agree with uused for the most part, but i’m still not sure that the number of addicts wouldnt skyrocket when kids could get the local bum to buy them a six-pack of needles. i have no first hand knowledge of heroin addiction but the stories i’ve heard have certainly pointed to the suddenness of addiction and the difficulty of escaping. thats really the only sticking point for me.

  10. Underused said,

    I can stop smoking long enough to take a piss test for the insurance company. That’s why I don’t think insurance should engage in discriminatory pricing – there is no way to monitor all of the risky endeavors we engage in, so we should just treat everyone the same. I’ll pay the extra 20% if the people who eat at McD’s, go to tanning beds, drink heavily, and ski do also. Because heart disease, skin cancer, liver disease, and broken bones also have an effect on the cost of health care.

  11. larry said,

    Uused, and all, just because you can control your weed habit doesn’t mean shit when it comes to heroin. I’ve seen it. I had to hold back a guy who wanted to kill himself for lack of heroin. They describe it as, “you do it to stay normal”. Otherwise you get violently nauseous. Evil, evil, EVIL, EVIL shit!!! Some drugs should never be legal.

  12. Underused said,

    Fine, I’ll concede heroin, but the rest I want legal. Agreed? Alright, now who do we see about that. Anyone here having an extramarital affair with a member of congress or the Bush administration?

  13. JB said,

    Larry, you still didn’t answer my question.

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