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« MP gets cold feet about presenting Best Smoking Area award | Main | Stephen Williams: ASH to the rescue! »

'Are you a smoker?' cruise line asks prospective employee

Fourteen years ago Forest highlighted a disturbing trend.

Smokers are being blatantly undermined at work and often denied positions for which they are well qualified, according to a new report.

Information published yesterday by Forest, a pressure group for smokers' rights, claims job advertisements with a strong anti-smoking slant are becoming the norm ...

The Forest report highlights what it calls blatant discrimination in a document entitled Smoking: The New Apartheid. The unfair treatment mentioned includes blanket bans on smoking, forcing smokers to accept reduced pay or longer working hours and sacking workers allegedly caught having a cigarette at work.

A study of more than 300 job advertisements also revealed a new trend of discrimination clearly designed to harm smokers' employment prospects, in extreme cases even stating that only non-smokers should apply.

Full report: Job hopes go up in smoke Forest says discrimination in the job market amounts to a new form of apartheid (The Herald, November 8, 1999).

Thankfully, having identified and publicised the problem we appeared to have nipped it in the bud which made stories such as this – Worker gets the sack for smoking at home – all the more shocking.

Yesterday, however, we were contacted by someone whose wife applied for a job on board a cruise ship.

As I understand it, she had worked on cruise ships before, hence her surprise when the application form invited her to state whether she was a smoker.

Well, she ticked the box marked 'yes' and you can guess the rest. She didn't get the job and the reason given was that the ship has just introduced a no-smoking policy.

As her husband said, a great many smokers are perfectly capable of adhering to no-smoking policies if necessary, but his wife wasn't given the opportunity.

The cruise line made an assumption based on an honest answer to the question 'Are you a smoker?' and discriminated accordingly.

Oddly enough, this was my response to the Worker gets the sack for smoking at home story:

Simon Clark, of the smokers' rights pressure group Forest, said: "If smokers are willing to accept a company's non-smoking policy, it is absolutely disgraceful that they should be denied employment."

More interesting perhaps is the response from ASH whose director in 2001 was a certain Clive Bates.

According to Clive, who is currently an outspoken advocate of e-cigarettes:

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ smokers, then that's their choice."

Perhaps, but I wonder what Clive's reaction would be if the same thing happened to an e-cigarette user today. Would he say:

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ vapers, then that's their choice."

People should be employed on their ability to do the job, not on whether they smoke, vape or drink a bottle of wine every night.

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Reader Comments (21)

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ smokers, then that's their choice."

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ smokers gays, then that's their choice."

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ smokers muslims, then that's their choice."

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ smokers blacks, then that's their choice."


Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 9:57 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

It would be interesting to see the reaction were a company to sack people who took prescription drugs such as Prozac, or who were dependent on sleeping pills. This would make more business sense than sacking someone who smoked at home.

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 11:45 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

"One might consider it a bit extreme, but if it's their policy not to employ smokers, then that's their choice."

Then pubs should be allowed to turn down non smoking staff and open the doors to smoking customers.

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 13:18 | Unregistered CommenterBucko

Frankly that's why I don't trust Clive Bates and I'm amazed at how some on our side of this campaign have been wooed by him.

I've known and felt the job discrimination for a long time but in the "progressive" 21st Century UK, a tobacco consumer's life is worth far less than that of someone who doesn't smoke.


Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 13:35 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

l have extensive knowledge of cruise ships and they have many policies regarding crew and these policies all come from shoreside. These include smoking and alcohol ... most of which are totally ignored by the crew and the officers.

The lesson here is to use the same tactics as the anti-smoking lot .... lie!

Strangely enough l'm about to go on a cruise ship for the first time ever as a passenger. This was a surprise present from my daughter who works on one of the big cruise ships. l shall report on it. :)

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 13:56 | Unregistered CommenterSmoking Hot

Someone who works on a cruise ship told me there is usually a smoking room for crew members and they can also smoke on the crew deck. Whether it's the same on every ship, I've no idea, but I imagine the captain uses his common sense.

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 14:38 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

"People should be employed on their ability to do the job, not on whether they smoke, vape or drink a bottle of wine every night."

What you are saying is that that's what should happen if employers behave rationally. Any other policy will harm their business. Employers sacking home-smokers are not behaving rationally. Clive Bates is just stating the current situation. Only discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, religion and now, maybe? age is illegal.

Where there is too much of other people's money at stake for individuals to indulge their personal irrational prejudices, people are employed on their ability to do the job. Ashley Cole, for example; regarded as the best left back in the world for the past decade and with over 100 England caps, is famously a smoker. I doubt Arsene Wenger bothers as long as he passes his stamina tests.

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 14:45 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

Strangely, P&O treats as shit those customers who go aboard to Belgium specifically on tobacco shopping trips but those who go to Holland are treated to a comfortable smoking room and deck.

P&O hates its tobacco customers but as Smoking Hot knows, there are ways to stick two fingers up to the company.

Yes, please report back on your cruise. Your approach is the right way. Lie and ignore the anti-smoker zealots. They are eviiiiiiiil ;) (to use their own vernacular)

And if you want to show the Govt that it has been misled into thinking most tobacco consumers want to quit then join #Octabber this October and tell Stoptober to FO (to use mine)

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 14:54 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Jonathon Bagley, as Ashely Cole has been playing for Chelsea for the last few seasons Arsene Wenger certainly doesn't give a damn.

Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 16:03 | Unregistered CommenterIan Reid

Going on from Bucko's comment above, I wonder how the PTB would react if a company were to advertise job vacancies with the rider; "Smokers only - non-smokers need not apply".

I have a feeling that someone would start shouting "Discrimination! Discrimination!"

Perhaps DP would like to test this theory the next time he has a vacancy in his company? :)

Friday, September 13, 2013 at 6:35 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

They did Nisakiman. I recall someone in Ireland (Chris Carter perhaps?) did just that but he was told he would be in trouble if he did because of "equality" laws.

Tobacco consumers are the only group of people singled out for legal discrimination and abuse. Every little helps to bring down the tobacco industry y' know even if it means "squeezing" the little people because the well paid and funded bullies and bigots can.

Yet another campaign Simon and a very worthy one. Hands Off Our Jobs, perhaps?

Friday, September 13, 2013 at 11:21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Poor old Simon's got campaigns coming out of his tabs...oops, sorry no pun intended.

Friday, September 13, 2013 at 13:40 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Aye indeed Dennis. If only we had the wealth of the anti-smoker industry and an office in every town like they do, plus an army of salaried staff, political stooges, or in Big P's pocket like £3000 per day taxi for hire to lobbyists Pat Hewitt, rather that just unpaid, over taxed, abused, humiliated and skint consumers because then they'd never dare to be so discriminatory because we would have some form of protection.

I guess HOOJ is a bit clumsy for a campaign title anyway.

Friday, September 13, 2013 at 15:56 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Thanks Ian. I've got Arsene Wenger on the brain.

Friday, September 13, 2013 at 17:14 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan Bagley

In my long working experience, the more anti-smoking an employer is, the more intrusive, dictatorial and controlling they are in general. Advertisements proudly trumpeting their anti-smoking credentials or any suggestion of anti-smokism at interview (including questions as to whether you do or whether you don’t) should be regarded by all job-seekers – both smokers and non-smokers alike - as a timely warning of the way they will be regarded by the employer and, accordingly, how they will be treated once in their employ, and should if at all possible be avoided at all costs. A more tolerant and open-minded employer (one who is simply concerned with how you do the job, rather than what you do in your breaks or in the evenings) is a much better bet, even if they are offering a lower salary or fewer perks etc.

And if there’s absolutely no alternative, then take the job, but start looking for another one, with a better employer, from the moment you get there, and leave as soon as you possibly can. Regard the job as a "temporary measure." Because even if you don’t smoke, you can bet your bottom dollar that any anti-smoking-type employer will start the process of grinding you into the dust the moment they put you on the payroll. Being an anti-smoker these days says so much more about people than just their attitude towards tobacco. Consider yourselves warned!

Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 2:03 | Unregistered CommenterMisty

I just wonder how prospective employees when given the reason for not being employed because they smoke, then go on to report this to their local job centre?

I’m quite sure the jobcentre would love to know which employers are denying job-seekers employment when they have much sought after skills that are vital to the nation right now – don’t you?

Because someone is a smoker is not a valid reason to deny that person their human right to gain useful employment so that they may feed their families – especially in these harsh economic times.
Is this what we call tolerance now in this country of ours?
If you smoke you can’t work…hmm, nice slogan.

You may think of this only as a moral issue – but it also encompasses humanity too.

Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 10:45 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

How about providing the name of the cruise ship line so they can be properly boycotted?

Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 17:16 | Unregistered Commenterchris

A reminder - I said back in 2008 : " ... I’m sure that will go down well at the dole office as a reason why someone is unemployable."

Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 17:50 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

Dole offices attitude towards anti-smoking employers? Hmm - given that we may not be far away from vouchers rather than dole money I'm not sure that they'd be unsympathetic towards the employers.

Monday, September 16, 2013 at 9:48 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Ahead of your time back then Pat

You made wise points in 2008, especially this one. “Anyone who really wants to give up smoking can without too much difficulty because experience tells me that smoking is habit forming but not physically addictive”.

The employment minister is Steve Webb MP and perhaps through the ‘They work for you’ site a polite request for further information about how widespread this practice is might be worth a try. Perhaps he is unaware of any such practices.

If you can lose employment because your employer has been told that you smoke at home, then maybe you can also lose your job because you drink alcohol or eat fatty foods at home too – eh?

Simon’s link at the top of his post about Mark Hodges being sacked because he mentioned to his employer’s wife that he enjoyed a smoke at home exemplifies the insanity that now grips this nation.

Monday, September 16, 2013 at 10:19 | Unregistered CommenterDennis

Dennis. I took it up specifically with Gillian Merron (Labour) when she was public health minister after 2007. Her response was pretty much that smokers shouldn't smoke at work and it was a good job that there was a law to stop them.

She didn't get nor care that smokers were being discriminated against when seeking employment - even when they were not smoking and had no intention to smoke.

I got the impression from her that if smoking made one unemployable, her Govt hoped that would force them to quit. Her conscience was better eased by one dying from starvation or homelessness than tobacco.

As it turned out, she got booted out of her seat here because of her foul prejudices and that was very well deserved. She was a classic puritan - completely driven by ideological hatred of tobacco consumers, fat people and those who liked a drink. in the pub.

Other such MPs must be booted out too.

Monday, September 16, 2013 at 11:31 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

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