I’ve always been very opposed to the government dictating when and where smoking is allowed to private businesses, but something happened this week that make me suspect that private industry may actually be behind smoking bans.Â So let’s consider this–who has the most to gain by banning smoking in the workplace?
I work for a large manufacturing company whose name I will not share here.Â On Friday, my company announced that beginning April 1, 2008 there will be no smoking allowed anywhere on the company’s property, even in your own car.Â This was a big surprise to everyone–the company did a great job of keeping this new policy under wraps until the announce date.
As a non smoker I don’t mind this at all, but of course there are numerous people at my company who are extremely upset.Â Being a large company, they did their duty of softening the blow to these people by offering free help to stop smoking along with a pamphlet explaining the reasons for the new policy.Â The contents of the pamphlet are what led me to my suspicions.
The reasons for the new policy were to increase cleanliness at our facility, to improve the health of all employees, and that Tennessee would in all likelihood ban smoking at all work places soon anyway.Â More important than the reasons the company gave is the one reason it didn’t give.Â By reducing the number of smokers it employs, or at least reducing the amount the smokers smoke, the company will save untold amounts on health and life insurance for its employees.
Why wouldn’t they bring this up?Â I personally would never hold it against them for trying to reduce their costs.Â I understand they are in business to make money.Â That includes reducing expenses just as much as it does increasing revenues.Â And why did they make it a point to mention that the state would probably be banning smoking for all businesses?
Then it occurred to me–large companies have more to gain from smoking bans than any other entity.Â Is it possible that they are the ones who are pushing smoking bans?Â The more I thought about it, the more it seemed not only possible, but likely.
Consider the fact that Tennessee is simultaneously trying to ban smoking and increase the tax on cigarettes.Â While the official government reason a smoking ban is the concern of the health of its citizens (yeah, right), they would lose a ton of tax revenue if people actually stopped smoking.Â So there isn’t a benefit to them.
But large corporations can greatly reduce their costs by making more of their employees non smokers.Â The problem is, this is a potential public relations nightmare for the employers with their employees.Â But if the company can use the gov’ment as their scapegoat, just as my company seems to have done, they can sell it to their employees much more easily.
I can’t think of a group that has more to gain from banning smoking at business than businesses themselves…something to think about.