toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

December 25, 2012

Smokers exempted from Anti Discrimination Act?

Carmel had just about come to the end of her tether in relation to harassment at work because of her smoking habit – especially when minority groups were being treated with utmost respect in relation to their rights – so she sought legal advice about suing her employer for harassment and discrimination.

“Well, did I get a shock,” says Carmel. “I was told in no uncertain terms that because smokers CHOOSE to smoke they are not in the same category as other minority groups and can therefore be legally discriminated against in employment and accommodation and vilified by the public at large.”

“I then asked why society tolerates vehicular, aviation and industrial pollution – but goes berserk when faced with a whiff of tobacco smoke – and was given some claptrap about that sort of pollution having a UTILITY value in that we all need cars to get to work, we all need industrial goods that need to be transported somewhere, and we all need trips interstate and abroad - but nobody needs to smoke.”

“I was stumped.”

“I cannot find a medical article proving that smokers are genetically wired to need nicotine so it does appear to be a choice we are making,” says Carmel, “but let's face it, it is a choice made possible by the LEGALITY of a highly addictive and carcinogenic product which cannot be used responsibly - how can a smoker smoke without polluting the air we all breathe?”

“In considering the ridiculousness of our position – we can buy cigarettes but we can’t smoke them within sniffing distance of anyone (and that could be a block away) – it occurred to me that smokers would indeed have to be stark, raving mad to put up with this situation,” says Carmel, “and then I had a light-bulb moment – maybe we ARE mad and can claim minority status on that basis!”

“The non-utility of smoking and the issue of choice vs need can be demolished by playing the mental health card,” says Carmel. “If smokers are indeed crazy to take up smoking and persist with the habit in the face of vilification, then they NEED to smoke because of a mental illness and if they were denied this outlet then they could go berserk and damage themselves or others. So, there is ULITITY in allowing smokers to smoke, and it is not a choice, but a NEED.”

“I’m not too happy about having myself declared insane because I smoke,” laughs Carmel, “but if taking this issue to the court of human rights affords me the same rights as minorities, then it is worth a try.”

“I probably was a bit depressed when I took up smoking, but after putting up with years of discrimination and harassment I am now definitely depressed and I am angry that smokers have been assigned a leper status.”

“By exempting smokers from the Anti Discrimination Act, smokers are being denied, quite legally, the right to employment and accommodation and are being openly vilified simply because they use a LEGAL product,” says Carmel. “If the government is not going to ban tobacco products then it does have a duty of care towards those who become hooked by it – and that means protecting our rights.”

“As I see it, smokers have been stitched up good and proper by the bodies that profit from our addiction, and if we can't quit or refuse to buckle - and we're not rich enough to snoot our noses or emigrate to some place like Argentina where smoking is permitted - then we deserve the status of a minority group in order to gain protection.”

“A human rights lawyer well versed in mental health issues needs to get on our case quick smart.”

Read more by Carmel on this issue:

  • sniffing out smokers

  • smelly co-workers

  • rights and responsibilities

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