Ft. Worth Weighs Hiring Ban on Smokers

The famous Fort Worth Stockyards sign is seen at at dusk in this undated photo, Fort Worth, Texas.

In the bad old days, discriminatory employers posted signs saying: "Irish [or fill in the blank] Need Not Apply." Now the city of Ft. Worth is considering saying that same thing to smokers.

Though 29 states have enacted legal protections for smokers, Texas isn't one of them, reports the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. State and city governments looking to fill jobs can legally tell smokers to get lost.

Already, a variety of private sector employers, including Texas' Baylor Health Care System, ban the hiring of smokers. As justification, they say smokers claim more sick days and incur higher health insurance costs.  The Centers for Disease Control have estimated that smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke is responsible annually for $193 billion worth of medical costs and lost productivity.

Still, no municipality-in Texas or anywhere else-has yet gone as far at Ft. Worth is thinking of going. No final decision will be made until after May 8, when the city's Human Resources Department will report further on the issue to the City Council.

"I think it's an infringement on the public's rights to live their life the way they choose to," Vince Chasteen, president of the city's employee association, told ABC affiliate WFAA.

Mayor Betsy Price told the station that the ban is worth looking into.

"Certainly we put taxpayer dollars into health care for our employees, and anything that might benefit the health to make our employees more protective and healthy, we're going to take a look at," she said.