December 13, 2005
Quit smoking, or you’re fired.
That’s what Scotts Miracle-Gro is telling its employees. If they don’t quit smoking by October, they’ll lose their jobs.
The lawn and garden company is trying to keep health insurance costs down by promoting healthy lifestyles for its employees.
The big difference now is that you can avoid smoking in a court house or go outside, the same with your favorite restaurant or bar, but now you risk losing your job if you get caught sneaking a puff in your own bathroom.
Smoking is a privilege, and any legal buff understands the difference between a right and a privilege: rights are basically immutable and youâ€™re born with them, but a privilege is granted by some authority and can be taken away.
Who made your boss your authority: your privilege provider/quasi-parent/health nanny?
Let’s step back for a moment. Let’s look at the natural rights view of this. Is smoking a privilege or a right? Take the desert-island approach. Do you have a right to smoke on a desert island? You might have to grow and roll your own, but I’d say you do, as a subset of that whole right to “liberty”. Of course, some would say that working is a right. And this is true. On a desert island, you’re entitled to work as much as you’d like, also a subset of liberty. But nobody is required to provide you a job. The minute you desire to have someone employ you, we’re off the desert island and back into society. So does everyone have a right to a job offer from a corporation? Of course not, when someone offers you a job, they are offering you a privilege, they are extending you an offer for a contract.
Any contract has two parties, and both parties must agree to the terms. Employers are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The nature of competition (largely due to government regulation) forces them into offering health insurance to their employees. But they have a responsibility to the company to ensure that they can make a profit, and they are struggling to meet the rising costs of that care while retaining profitability. How do they meet both demands? They determine that the pool of non-smokers is large enough in this country to support their workforce adequately, so they only contract for labor with non-smokers.
Of course, the smokers don’t like this. After all, to them this is someone intruding on their personal lives. But they aren’t paying for their own healthcare, they’ve passed that responsibility on to their employer. They are asking their company and fellow employees to pay more for health insurance to subsidize their own bad habits. And when you ask someone else to pay for your health insurance, how can you then demand that they stay out of everything associated with your healthcare costs? If you are granted an allowance to procure a company car, do you expect your employer to be happy when you demand a Ferrari?
Can I say that I like this development? No. Can I say that I’d prefer employers butt out of what their employees do off the clock? Of course. And if I had to place blame somewhere, I’d place it on government regulations that forced businesses to start offering healthcare coverage. In fact, from what I understand, companies cannot legally discriminate on how they offer healthcare coverage to specific groups of employees, so they discriminate on which employees they hire.
The true problem here is that health care costs have been borne for far too long by someone other than the consumer of that care. If individuals were forced to pay different premiums for behavior that adversely affected their health, they might understand how companies who pick up the tab have to bear those same increased costs. But they don’t. They think smoking is a privilege, but that they have a RIGHT to a job and a RIGHT to health insurance. This is a highly inverted view of rights, but unforunately far too common these days.
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Rights of the Government to Impose Air Security Measures
Searchlight Crusade linked with Carnival of Liberty
The Unrepentant Individual linked with Smokers Catch NO Breaks…
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