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There are a number of press reports about a new trend in corporate America – firing people for personal behaviors that are deemed to be unhealthy.

The Los Angeles Times, for example, reports that “pointing to rising health costs and the oversized proportion of insurance claims attributed to smokers, some employers in California and around the country are refusing to hire applicants who smoke and, sometimes, firing employees who refuse to quit.” There are some states where such actions are illegal, but California isn’t one of them – and some employers are using the stick when carrots (such as cash bonuses and iPods) don’t work.

In some cases, employers are actually doing drug tests of employees – and nicotine is the drug they are testing for.

The next step, it is suggested, will be to start using carrots and sticks with obese employees, though the legality of firing someone for being fat is, to say the least, questionable.

One other approach being considered – charging employees who smoke or who are obese higher health care insurance premiums.

Some studies have challenged the data saying that people who smoke or who are fat don’t cost any more in health care costs than people who are in better shape. And the American Civil Liberties union (ACLU) also is raising questions about whether such moves are constitutional.
KC's View:
We think that anything companies can do to get people to live healthier lifestyles is a positive – especially charging higher insurance premiums, which seems like a no-brainer. And helping to pay for treatments of various kinds also seems like a smart thing to do.

But we have to admit to intolerance on this one.

If we actually had an organization (as opposed to this rogue little Internet operation) we simply wouldn’t hire anyone who smoked. Couldn’t do it. For that matter, we never even dated girls who smoked when we were younger, and can’t remember ever having a close friend who smoked. A lot of that can be traced back to having grown up with a mother who was a two-pack-a-day smoker for almost her entire life. (She finally quit, and then a couple of years later was diagnosed with cancer and died seven years ago at age 67.)