Smoking

In the UK, smoking in workplaces is banned. But we can do what we want in our own homes and in our own time (as long at it’s legal).

Glancing through job adverts (reading them is a recurrent hobby, not a search) I note that the World Health Organisation wants to recruit only people who are non smokers – that’s not just people who are non-smokers at work, but non-smokers at home as well. This raises an interesting ethical question: should employers have any right to know what their employees are up to (in a non-lawbreaking sense) when they are off duty? Surely employees are entitled to privacy? Of course, good employers will want to ensure that they are not curtailing employees ability to be healthy – but this is a step beyond.

Now, there may be an argument that smokers are less healthy and require more sick leave than non-smokers. But this seems to be rather discriminatory. Most smokers want to stop, and more smokers belong to lower socio-economic groups. I can’t find any research indicating that people would be helped to stop smoking by this policy (if I am wrong, let me know) but there is plenty of evidence associating unemployment with worse health. All in all, this seems to me to be an invasion of privacy and really rather unfair.

Margaret McCartney’s Blog

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A forum on healthcare policy and professional issues, by Glasgow-based GP and FT Weekend columnist Margaret McCartney.

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