post by Bill Gardner
Paul and I had a debate earlier this month about whether it would be permissible, and about whether it would be just, for employers to discriminate against smokers in hiring. One of Paul's concerns was that lower SES smokers are less able to quit smoking. Therefore, allowing such discrimination would be a policy that would make the worst off even worse off.
There is new evidence today that Paul's claim about SES and smoking is correct. Rick Nauert reports that
Researchers... followed smokers from different socioeconomic backgrounds after they had completed a statewide smoking cessation program in Arkansas. After a program of cognitive-behavioral therapy, either with or without nicotine patches, underprivileged and those from higher social economic backgrounds were able to quit at about the same rate. However, as time progressed, a significant number of the underprivileged returned to smoking. Those with the fewest social and financial resources had the hardest time staving off cravings over the long run.
These findings strengthen Paul's case argument for finding ways to diminish smoking that do not worsen the disadvantages suffered by many smokers. I completely agree: Wherever possible, we want to find and implement anti-smoking programs that help disadvantaged people. I still think that employers should be free to use non-smoking as a criterion for hiring, but if they do, this redoubles the importance of finding other means of reducing smoking.