By Leo Coughlin
First, some disclosure.
I do not smoke and am opposed to the use of tobacco. I do not drink and do not care if you do. I am not obese and feel sorry for those who are.
So this is not about being against anything - except unfairness. In keeping with the trend now of what has gone for too many years - that is, a few deciding what is the best for the rest of us, some hicokolrum in the upper reaches of the Largo sanctum sanctorum came up with the idea of not hiring any smokers.
Well, let's face it. Smokers are easy targets. Those of us who don't do it and are grateful have seen slaves to the weed treated like quasi-criminals - banned here, banned there, banned everywhere.
Okay, it's a good thing, but human nature being what it is, there are those who just won't - or cannot - give up the habit of drawing tobacco smoke into their lungs.
Susan Sinz, who runs Largo's Human Resources (personnel) Department - was sent out to pitch the idea to the City Commission a couple of months ago.
The reason given was the health insurance expense and the health aspects. You can bet the real reason is money and with the city picking up health insurance tabs and a shortage of money you can be totally assured the real reason was money.
When a city is paying the kind of compensation it is doling out to top executives and the benefits it gives employees (including double dipping) it has to find some ways to save money.
These are belt-tightening times sure enough, but you look at Largo's budget fiscal year 2011 beginning October 1, which will be wrapped up a week from today, and you wonder.
It seems like the city is blowing money right and left - almost 70 grand for more exercise equipment where there is plenty of the stuff within a stone's throw of the site; and that is not to speak of the $10,000 a week dumped into the Cultural Center.
But I digress.
Not hiring tobacco users because smoking is an unhealthy habit? The city administration is taking a slippery slope, as Commissioner Curtis Holmes pointed out when the subject came up last week.
The City Commission wisely deferred action. It wants more study. No date has been set for resurrection of the subject. Perhaps it has been put to rest.
In the meanwhile, let's grant the point that smoking is deleterious to health. No argument there.
But there are other unhealthy things people do.
Alcohol, for example, is the most dangerous drug there is out there and it has costly aspects from the health standpoint, absenteeism, mistakes in judgment and so forth and so on.
One of the arguments originally used by La Sinz is that "smokers are not a protected class." That's an odd one. Many of us did not realize there were protective classes in this country. Just what would protected classes be?
After many hours of fast and abstinence and intense prayer it came to me: homosexuals are a protected class. That is, there can be no discrimination against hiring them (and, let me emphasize, there should not be.)
In fact, Largo went to great lengths to accomplish this a few years ago, disguising the effort under the word "diversity." A very strong proponent of this was none other than the city manager of the time who, it turns out, was a homosexual. Voila!
And, of course, one of the arguments one could possibly raise in the health context on the so-called "diversity" issue is that this particular class to whom it was referring is thought to be prone to AIDS.
But, wait. That is probably of very small significance.
Of more important and weighty (ahem) consideration is obesity.
Those who are still on their legs and reading the public prints will see bellowed at them from publications and sound boxes of all types and sizes the dangers of overweight, obesity; in short, fat.
Obesity is a real killer. The betting here is that on an everyday basis it is killing more people than smoking is.
To implement a policy of not hiring tobacco users would be as zany - in a city already rife with zaniness - as anything one could possibly think of.
It's an idea that needs to be snuffed out.
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