Tennessee Hospital Tells Smokers: You Can't Work Here

"Of course I realize smoking's bad for you…and I still try to quit. It's incredible to try to quit."

Insurance Companies

Though Memorial Hospital would not comment on the new policy, this comes at a time when many businesses are paying higher insurance premiums for employees who smoke. And some companies have attributed their policies against smokers to the cost of health insurance for smokers.

A spokesperson for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee told ABC News they have noticed a greater interest in keeping employee groups healthy.

"We are aware of increased efforts by employers to address the health status of their employees along with the affordability of that care. These efforts range from offerings like health coaching and gym memberships to on-site educational campaigns and incentive programs," said media relations manager Mary Thompson.

Thompson added that they do not have data to track the specifics of tobacco policies of group accounts.

But some pressure is coming in the other direction, to preserve the right of people to smoke when it comes outside the workplace.

Eugene Volokh, a professor of constitutional law at UCLA, said that while most states do not have them, some -- including North Carolina -- have passed laws preventing employers from regulating employees' out-of-office activities if they do not affect work.

While these laws are perceived as protecting people who smoke, they also allow people who participate in dangerous sports to continue pursuing those activities.

While federal laws exist to prevent discrimination, "It is actually limited to very few categories of discrimination," Volokh said, including race, religion, disability and nationality.

"By and large, most hospitals don't care if you ski off duty,"Volokh said. "They probably don't even care if you drink off duty."

Increase in Bans

While policies against hiring smokers are rare, company policies banning smoking on the work site are not.

Matthew Farrelly, director of the Public Health Policy research program at RTI, says he has seen a steady increase in smoking bans over the years.

"I documented in 1985 about 25 percent of workplaces banned smoking indoors. As of 2009, that was up to about 80 percent. That's a combination of state and local laws and as well as businesses just making the decision on their own," Farrelly said.

While California and New York led the states in enforcing bans, Farrelly says that there are now about 21 states that ban smoking in bars, restaurants and all work places.

Farrelly says his research has shown that going smoke-free has not seemed to hurt the business of companies, even for restaurants and bars.

"In New York state, when bars and restaurants went smoke-free, there was no widespread impact. We looked at sales and you couldn't tell the difference," he said.

But advocates for smokers' freedoms believe laws have taken a step too far.

"I think everybody started to eventually concede that even if there wasn't an issue, they were fine with separating smokers from non-smokers as a matter of courtesy," said George Koodray, assistant director of the Citizens Freedom Alliance, Inc. But, he said, that became a slippery slope. "No longer is the issue about the fact that you're smoking and you may be involuntarily imposing smoke upon me.

"I think that's unfair, I think that's an infringement on the freedom of others," he said.

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