Nonsmokers-only hiring policies: personal liberty vs. promoting public health

Wendell C. Taylor, William J. Winslade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is a fierce debate about nonsmokers-only hiring policies, also referred to as no-nicotine hiring policies and “tobacco free” hiring policies. The favorable outcomes of no-nicotine hiring policies include reduced health costs, improved worker productivity, enhanced organizational image, and symbolic messaging. The unfavorable consequences of such policies include violating personal liberty, risking a “slippery slope” to other health-compromising behaviors, exacerbating socio-economic disparities, and discriminating against smokers. No-nicotine hiring policies have not been adequately evaluated and a new approach is warranted. The new conditional employment policy for smokers is described with stipulations for the probationary period. Autonomy and fairness are frequently cited as ethical principles to analyze no-nicotine hiring policies. An analysis of ethical principles is presented for no-nicotine hiring policies and the new conditional employment policy. The ethical principle of fairness is rooted in the effectiveness of any policy. Therefore, an evaluation plan is described for the conditional employment policy to assess effectiveness and efficiency. The proposed policy provides a powerful incentive to overcome smoking addictions, preserve the ethical principles of autonomy and fairness, as well as bridge the divide between personal liberty and personal responsibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-373
Number of pages15
JournalEthics and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 19 2022


  • Hiring policies
  • health promotion
  • nonsmoking hiring policies
  • smokers
  • workplace

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • General Psychology


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