Online job ads spark debate for discriminating against smokers

Jobs range from drivers to personal trainers,publishers,disability workers and receptionists.

Written by Agencies | Melbourne | Published:May 12, 2012 3:39 pm

Smokers face a new battleground with online job ads specifying they need not apply.

Online advertisements requesting non-smoking candidates have sparked debate about personal choice,discrimination and protecting workers’ health and productivity.

The jobs range from drivers to personal trainers,publishers,disability workers and receptionists,according to the ‘Herald Sun’.

A South Melbourne publishing firm,advertised for an experienced full-time graphic designer,with the line: “Smokers need not apply!”

A similar push is happening in the US where some hospitals have begun testing workers for nicotine use in their drug screens.

The move has met with mixed reactions,with anti-smoking groups saying employers,especially hospitals and health organisations,had the right not to employ smokers.

Action on Smoking and Health Australia chief executive Anne Jones said some employers should be allowed to hire only non-smokers.

“I think there is going to be more ads like this because most workplaces are quite concerned about the loss of productivity from smoking,” she said.

“What is very understandable is that some workplaces are saying they don’t want smokers to apply because they see it as a productivity issue,” she stated.

Jones said health organisations and hospitals would have particular reason not to employ smokers.

But she said every workplace was different and some would be better off paying for staff to undergo quit courses.

Australian Institute of Fitness coach Andre Sammut said non-smokers were preferred because it reflected on company values.

“We are delivering training in fitness and health and we want to promote a fit and healthy lifestyle,” he said.

However,acting Victorian Equal Opportunity Commissioner Karen Toohey warned advertisements must not discriminate.

“Stipulating smokers need not apply for a job may be against the law. Employers should not seek to exclude smokers from applying for a position,unless the need not to smoke is an inherent requirement of the role,” she said.

Toohey said factors such as weight,height or smoking were not relevant to a person’s ability to do their job. Every employer should be looking for “the best person for a job”.

Premier Ted Baillieu said while advertising for non-smokers may breach equal opportunity provisions,the message to quit was a good one.

“I would encourage people to put the fags out,don’t smoke and get on with the job,” Baillieu said.

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