Search This Blog

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nicotine Segregation

I was reading this article the other day: "Hiring Trend: Smokers Need Not Apply."  It describes a new hiring (or, rather, lack of hiring practice) that says if someone fails their "smoking test" (the details of which are not specified) then that person cannot be hired for a job.

So if you're a smoker you can kiss your job opportunities goodbye.

How nice is that?

Never mind that there are lots of other behaviors just as "costly" as smoking in terms of future medical dollars.

So let's go a little deeper...

It turns out that a little research will uncover that nicotine is itself not necessarily as dangerous as you are led to believe.  (Below are some quick links I whipped up - but they are only the tip of the iceberg on discrediting nicotine as an evil cancer causing substance.  I remember in the 1970's it being reported that sewing dimes into the skin of mice caused cancer - so should we ban dimes too?)

First off, nicotine is commonly found in many types of food albeit not at quite the same levels as tobacco but it is present none-the-less: tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and tea, among others, all contain nicotine.  These foods have been consumed for centuries or millenia.

Secondly, nicotine has many therapeutic uses - as treatment for colitis, depression, as a cancer preventative, and many more.  Tobacco was used as a medicinal by native Americans long before Europeans discovered America.  Until the 1980's and the rise of the anti-smoking juggernaut research was conducted by many companies and universities into the uses of nicotine for therapeutic usage.

Third, nicotine has become synonymous with cancer.  However that is not necessarily born out by research.  In fact its seems that research has a hard time distinguishing between the effects of nicotine and smoking in general.

But I have written elsewhere about this and will probably do so again.

Now, given this, let's examine who smokes.  A nice list relating population by race with smoking can be found here.

Unfortunately you will see that minorities reflect a disproportionate percentage of smokers.  For example, in Alaska some 37% of Native Americans smoke compared to 18% of whites.

Now it seems to me that based on these kinds of figures discriminating based on smoking will, for one thing, disproportionally affect minorities.

Now let's think about how smoking and nicotine interact with your body.

You will find a reasonably simple description here.  Nicotine has a half-life in your body of about 60 minutes or so and a large portion of it breaks down very quickly into cotinine.  Cotinine lasts about 20 hours in your body before being excreted in your urine.

Cotinine, according to Wikipeda, has also had a life as the commercial anti-depressant Scotine.  How interesting is that then?  Smoking byproducts of nicotine turn into commercially available anti-depressants...

But the real problem here is that this "don't hire a smoker" campaign is really an example of a "witch hunt" or "availability cascade" for nicotine (see "Does Risk Exist?").  Kind of the tail of the witch hunt where total lack of knowledge is what's wagging the dog.

Another interesting side effect of this sort of hiring model is that the "expensive smoker" who cannot get a job is foisted off by industry on the public health system - creating a tax liability for everyone through the less-than-efficient government-run medical system.

Nicotine is available to people through a variety of perfectly legal non-smoking, non-tobacco forms.

Apparently these people are not to be hired either.

I wrote about this over a year ago in "Nicotine, Nazi's and Magical Thinking."

Toward the end of this post I describe the anti-smoking/anti-nicotine juggernaut as discrimination by genetic disposition - no different than any of the other forms of racist behavior.

Logically this argument is equivalent to not hiring women with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer.

I find it interesting that in well intentioned world of "anti-smoking" racism and discrimination has found a new and welcoming home.

No comments:

Post a Comment