Apr 242013
 

This Freakonomics Radio on Marketplace podcast: In many states (21, to be precise), it is perfectly legal for an employer to not hire someone who smokes. This might seem understandable, given that health insurance is often coupled to employment, and since healthcare risks and costs are increasingly pooled. And so: if employers can exclude smokers, should they also be able to weed out junk-food lovers or motorcyclists — or perhaps anyone who wants to have a baby?

That question is the thrust of this podcast, which features a conversation with Zeke Emanuel. He is a Penn medical professor/bioethicist; a former White House healthcare adviser; the author of Healthcare, Guaranteed (and Brothers Emanuel, about growing up with Rahm and Ari); and a coauthor, with Harald Schmidt and Kristin Voigt, of a recent New England Journal of Medical article (previewed on our blog) called “The Ethics of Not Hiring Smokers

”EMANUEL: I’m a cancer doctor. I find smoking disgusting. I find smoking horrible. I wish that everyone who did it could quit. But I also recognize that it’s not voluntary, that most people start before they’re adults and that it’s incredibly hard to quit once you’ve started.”

Transcript:

Kai RYSSDAL: Time now for a little Freakonomics Radio. It’s that moment every couple of weeks we talk to Stephen Dubner, the co-author of the books and blog of the same name. It is “the hidden side of everything.” Dubner, long time, no talk, man!

Stephen J. DUBNER: Great to be back, Kai. Thanks for having me. I know you trained as a Navy pilot — I wonder if you ever thought about afterward working as a commercial pilot? Was that ever a plan?

RYSSDAL: No, not really. That was never my thing.

DUBNER: Well, if you had, and if you had interviewed with, let’s say, Alaska Airlines, there’s something you would have needed to know. Here’s airline spokesperson Marianne Lindsey:

Marianne LINDSEY: “In general, there’s a question that’s asked, ‘have you smoked or used tobacco products within the last six months?’ And we go by how the employee responds to that question. And then, before they’re hired, they have a drug test that they take that detects nicotine use.”

RYSSDAL: So Alaska Airlines would not hire me, were I a smoker. Yes?

 

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Source: Freakonomics

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