Habitual cigarette smokers could face backlash from potential employers if the Indiana Chamber achieves one of its goals for the upcoming session.
The Chamber is seeking repeal of Indiana’s 1991 “smoker’s bill of rights” which says employers can’t refuse to hire smokers and can’t charge them higher premiums for health insurance.
Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar says the law went too far in its protection of smokers.
“Right now smoking is just as much of a protected class for hiring purposes in Indiana as race, religion, and all of the things that fell under the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Brinegar said.
Indiana has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation, and Brinegar says that‘s directly responsible for some of the highest health insurance costs in the U.S. Brinegar says those premiums are costing Indiana jobs. He says he’s heard from several many out of state employers who have balked at expanding their Indiana plants because of those costs.
Hoosier employers can and do offer programs to help smokers kick the habit, but Brinegar says they need to be able to address the issue directly.