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Am J Public Health. 2012 Nov;102(11):2013-8. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300745. Epub 2012 Sep 20.

Ethical concerns in tobacco control nonsmoker and "nonnicotine" hiring policies: the implications of employment restrictions for tobacco control.

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  • 1Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University, 3647 Peel St, Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1X1.


Smoking has been restricted in workplaces for some time. A number of organizations with health promotion or tobacco control goals have taken the further step of implementing employment restrictions. These restrictions apply to smokers and, in some cases, to anyone testing positive on cotinine tests, which also capture users of nicotine-replacement therapy and those exposed to secondhand smoke. Such policies are defended as closely related to broader antismoking goals: first, only nonsmokers can be role models and advocates for tobacco control; second, nonsmoker and "nonnicotine" hiring policies help denormalize tobacco use, thus advancing a central aspect of tobacco control. However, these arguments are problematic: not only can hiring restrictions come into conflict with broader antismoking goals, but they also raise significant problems of their own.

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