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January 27, 2005
When Corporations Go Insane, Government Will Follow

Normally I don't have a tremendous amount of sympathy for smokers. I used to smoke cigarettes for several years and gave it up when I got engaged to the First Mate (although I wasn't much of a nicotine addict -- I'd go through one or two packs a month on average). I still smoke an occasional cigar. Even when I smoked, I considered it a silly, self-destructive habit.

However, it remains a fully legal self-destructive habit, and as long as people smoke in their own space and don't toss their refuse all over the place, I have no issue with silly choices. The BBC reports that a Michigan health-care company feels otherwise and wants to not only ban smoking from its premises, but require that its employees do not smoke anywhere else either:

Four workers in the United States have been sacked after refusing to take a test to determine if they were smokers. They were employees of Michigan-based healthcare firm Weyco, which introduced a policy banning its staff from smoking - even away from the workplace. ...

The firm says that, as its business is to help other firms save money and improve employee health through its benefit plans, it is only natural it should take a lead on the issue.

"For every smoker who quits because of it, there will be many people - family members, friends, co-workers - who are very thankful the person won't be going to an early grave," said Weyco President Howard Weyers, in a message on its website.

Weyers gives new meaning to the phrase dictatorial management style. Workers owe their employers their work and loyalty during working hours, and if Weyco doesn't want people smoking on company property inside or outside, that's certainly their business. However, forcing employees to take urine tests to determine if they've engaged in essentially lawful activities anywhere and on their own time goes far beyond reasonableness or even sanity.

CQ readers may well ask, "Where does this intrusive, nanny-office mindset end?" It doesn't end with smoking; Weyco also wants to force its employees to change their eating and exercise habits as well. They claim that smoking and obesity costs them extra money in health-care coverage, and if employees want those benefits -- a reasonable expectation given Weyco's business -- then Weyco employees need to bend to Weyer's demands.

Besides being a warning to avoid doing any kind of business with Way-Out Weyers, this should serve as an example of the same kind of treatment we can expect to get from a government-run healthcare system. Ted Kennedy wants the federal government to provide health insurance to everyone, and you can bet your last Krispy Kreme donut that once it happens, we will find all sorts of restrictions imposed on us for our own good. Congress will get pressure to put taxes on "bad" food in order to drive up its costs. Food-industry corporations will get sued into oblivion, a possibility even now. Government will intrude further and further into our lives, reducing our choices and making us little more than children, reliant on the nanny-state for even our most basic decisions.

Weyers and Weyco need to get a life, and the rest of us need to stay wary of those who profess a need to assist us by taking our choices away -- even the silly ones.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 27, 2005 12:32 PM

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» "No Smoking -- Ever!!" from Angry in the Great White North
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» Corporate Nanny State? from
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» Weyco Inc Fires All Smoking Employee's from Diggers Realm
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