Businesses, especially health care organizations, are within their rights to refuse to hire anyone who smokes.
A decade ago bans on hiring smokers were rare. Alaska Airlines, Turner Broadcasting, Florida's Gulf Power and some law enforcement agencies were among the early adopters.
Tobacco is addictive, damaging and deadly. One in five deaths each year in the U.S. is blamed on illnesses related to smoking.
Pennsylvania's Geisinger Health System has announced it won't hire smokers as of Wednesday. The Cleveland Clinic adopted a smoke-free campus in 2005 and two years later decided to no longer hire smokers. The job offer is subject to a nicotine-free urine test. People who fail the test are offered free tobacco-cessation programs and may reapply for a job in 90 days.
Dr. Paul Terpeluk, Cleveland Clinic's medical director of employee heath service, said banning smoking and smokers is part of educating people. The clinic also bans transfats and sugar-laden drinks from clinic cafeterias and vending machines, offers free gym memberships and rewards employees who make healthy decisions with lower insurance premiums.
Refusing to hire smokers does not extend too deeply into the private lives of prospective workers. Employers already refuse to hire people who use illegal drugs. Companies have ample reason to cut health insurance costs. They also deserve great latitude in hiring.