You know what’s enjoyable? Smoking a premium cigar. You know what’s not enjoyable? Getting fired from your job because you smoke premium cigars on your own time, away from the workplace. But if one state senator from Indiana gets her way, cigar lovers who work in The Hoosier State could be penalized by their employers for lighting up.
In the latest, over-the-top attack on tobacco, Sen. Liz Brown of Fort Wayne, Indiana has introduced a bill (S.B. 23) that seeks to repeal part of the state’s workplace code to strip away “employment protections for individuals who smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products.” In other words, the bill would grant businesses the right to test employees and job applicants for tobacco use, placing the perfectly legal product on the same tier as illegal drugs such as marijuana, heroin and cocaine.
If the bill were to pass, the new law would give businesses the right to withhold health coverage from smokers, refuse to hire them, or even fire employees based on their tobacco use in their free time.
This isn’t just overkill, it’s ridiculous. Or to steal a line from the great Jackie Chiles of Seinfeld fame, “It’s outrageous, egregious and preposterous.” (Speaking of Jerry Seinfeld, he and Larry David understand that there is a big difference between cigarettes and cigars, evinced by this clip from Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.)
Insurance companies have been testing applicants for tobacco use for years to help establish life-insurance premiums. Many insurance companies lump pack-a-day cigarette smokers into the same category as the occasional cigar connoisseur without differentiating the two despite one being a nasty habit, the other a pleasant hobby. Unfortunately, S.B. 23 falls into the same trap.
“Of all the anti-tobacco bills filed throughout the nation, S.B. 23 by Indiana State Senator Liz Brown symbolizes the nanny-state as few do,” said Glynn Loope, executive director of the Cigar Rights of America. “This legislation is an attempt at social engineering using the legislative process, to pander to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, who is backing this bill. Having the government enact a law that would allow an employer to hire and fire employees, because they may happen to enjoy a cigar or other legal tobacco product, is as bad as using taxation or smoking bans to strip away personal freedoms and property rights.”
Currently, 29 states and Washington D.C. all have statutes dubbed “smoker protection laws” that, in general, prevent employers from discriminating against employees who use tobacco products in their own free time. Should S.B. 23 pass, that number would fall to 28.If you’re a cigar lover in Indiana and want to ensure your right to enjoy a premium cigar won’t cost you a job, it’s time to speak out. Head over to the Cigar Rights of America website and use their “Take Action” tool to contact your General Assembly representatives.