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Anti-Smoking Stance Hardens

The growing trend against smoking in the workplace is taking on new dimensions in several Orange County cities. Instead of official policies that say “no smoking,” some cities, like Brea and Laguna Beach, are considering saying “No Smokers.” Period. They just won’t hire them.

The Brea Fire Employee Assn. has already put such a clause in the new two-year contract that is scheduled for City Council approval Tuesday. The contract as drafted would ban the hiring of any new firefighters, fire engineers and fire captains who smoked--on or off duty. It will not affect present employees, most of whom don’t smoke. If approved, the ban would be the first of its kind in Orange County.

Laguna Beach is considering giving “preference” to nonsmoking police officers and firefighters, an approach the Costa Mesa Fire Department has already adopted. Its two newest firefighters are nonsmokers.

Under the preference approach, smokers could be considered only after all nonsmoking applicants had been reviewed. Applicants are considered nonsmokers if they haven’t used tobacco in the last year. South Pasadena has such a preference policy for all its city jobs.

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At first glance, giving nonsmokers preference, or rejecting smokers outright seems discriminatory. But it isn’t. The approach is based on health considerations.

Just as overweight applicants face restrictions in hiring because they are greater disability risks, smokers tend to be sick more and use medical benefits more than nonsmokers. And smoking has definitely been linked to cancer. There is also ample evidence that nonsmokers are exposed to health hazards from secondhand smoke.

Considering the generally liberal disability benefits provided public safety personnel, it’s not unreasonable for cities to hire only the most fit.


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