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Indiana bill would remove protections for workers who smoke

At one point, smokers had a lot of rights in the United States. They could light up just about anywhere they pleased and were allowed to take frequent "smoking breaks" at work. Additionally, most states, including Indiana, enacted laws protecting smokers from employment discrimination.

However, the times have changed. Now smoking is banned on most properties and workers who smoke often have to step off of company grounds in order to light up. Additionally, Indiana lawmakers are currently considering a bill that would eliminate the law protecting smokers from employment discrimination.

If the bill, known as Indiana House Bill 1029, is made into law, employers would be able to ask prospective employees to stop using tobacco products before they are hired. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is a strong supporter of the bill because it says smokers cost businesses money.

Generally speaking, smokers' health care costs are higher than non-smokers, which is why many companies want to make being "tobacco free" a condition of employment. It also allows companies to consider other ways smoking impacts an employee's performance, a state lawmaker who supports the bill said.

Of course, the bill has also raised opposition from groups that support civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union's non-profit called the National Workrights Institute has already taken issue with the bill. It says Indiana residents have a right to smoke if they choose, and protections are needed to prevent unfair discrimination.

Because 21.2 percent of Indiana residents smoke -- which is the ninth highest percentage in the country -- this is an issue that affects many. What are your opinions on removing the law that protects Indiana smokers from employment discrimination?

Source: The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana Chamber backs employers not hiring smokers," Barb Berggoetz, Jan. 9, 2014

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