Larry Elder

No more smokers. Is the next step no more Democrats?

 So the CEO of a Michigan company announced a no-more-smokers policy. Employees of Weyco Inc. could not smoke at the office, in the parking lot, in an ally or even at home. Weyco founder Howard Weyers gave his employees who smoked 15 months warning and offered them smoking cessation courses. Weyco eventually fired or forced out workers who refused to take nicotine tests to show that they did not smoke.

 "We're not telling you, you can't smoke," said Weyco CFO Gary Climes. "We're telling you, you can't smoke and work here." Weyco says it expects to reduce its health-care costs. Action on Smoking and Health, an anti-smoking advocacy group, says that the cost of smokers' medical care is $3,000 a year more than non-smokers, and that lost productivity caused by illness and smoking breaks during the workday costs the employer another $2,000 a year per smoker.

 Across the country, nearly 5,000 municipalities require 100 percent smoke-free workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars. Some localities go even farther. In Montgomery County, Md., councilmen approved one of the most restrictive anti-smoking measures in the nation, setting stiff fines for people who smoke in their own homes if it offends their neighbors.

 "You can smoke in your house, but if you smoke on your property or in your home, that smoke cannot interfere unreasonably with your neighbor," said Isiah Leggett, a Montgomery council member."

 In San Francisco, the Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance banning smoking in all city parks. The simple act of lighting up a cigarette while outdoors in a San Francisco park will cost you several hundred dollars in fines. The ordinance extends to city parks, recreation centers and open spaces.

 Taking this to the next logical step, Investors Property Management, a Seattle-based company, simply refuses to hire cigarette smokers. But not because of health-care costs. Vice president Dieter Benz says he stopped hiring smokers three years ago because he did not want his company associated with the negative image of cigarette smokers.

 "The image of smokers is they aren't well educated, they don't care about themselves or others, they are less mentally stable," said Benz. "We don't want that image associated with our company, so we won't hire them." Wow.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.