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Opinion: Employment, Smoking & Human Rights

The HRC, Smoking & Human Rights

by Jim Peron

The Human Rights Commission says that smoking is not a human right. Therefore employers may discriminate against smokers. The conclusion is right, the reasons given entirely wrong. But the decision does reflect something important about the Human Rights Commission and other similar bodies.

Such agencies know nothing about human rights. They are vehicles meant to promote specific politcally-correct agendas. They define ³rights² according to chic PC ideology and at the moment smoking is viewed in an unfavourable way.

The HRC says that since smoking is not a right then it¹s fine to discriminate. Liberals would argue that discrimination itself is a form of voluntary association. People must be free to associate, or not to associate, according to whatever preferences they may have including smoking habits.

Now many of us, myself included, would find some such discrimination repugnant. Discriminating on the basis of race, for instance, is reprehensible.

Of course if you call that discrimination affirmative action then the HRC applauds you. Consistency is not a trait of PC political bodies.

I would argue that smoking, another activity I find repulsive, is a right. You can ingest any substance you want since you are the sole owner of your body.

But it is a right limited by the equal rights of other. Just don¹t do it on my property since that violates my property rights.

And as an employer if I don¹t want to hire you because of that habit I have every right to discriminate.

What employers do with their property is their business. It doesn¹t belong to the PC platoon. If the PC elite want to set employment policy then let them pay the salaries.

Instead they want the right to control hiring policies while employers suffer the consequences.

In this case they say employers may discriminate because the PC don¹t like smoking. But they have long lists of other instances where employers are not free to discriminate.

They recently said that a business must accommodate employees who have religious sabbaths that conflict with normal working hours. Of course some people have a sabbath on Friday, some on Saturday, some on Sunday.

But the HRC supports what the PC call multi-culturalism so ordering employers to accommodate a Seventh Day Adventist on Saturday or a Muslim on Friday is fine. On the other hand employers can openly discriminate against smokers.

Smoking is a right because each individual should have sovereignty over his or her own body. That means her or she may care for it well or abuse it according to his or her own values.

Equally employers should be free to make non smoking, or smoking, a condition for employment.

Now the political Left wants all of us to subsidise health care so that when individuals abuse their body we pay the costs collectively.

One result of such socialised health care is that the State then assumes that since the consequences of such decisions are born collectively then our bodies belong to the collective as well.

The State, they argue, is the embodiment of the collective and thus free to control what we do with our bodies. This is one reason we¹ll see a plethora of legislation controlling eating habits over the next few years. This is just the beginning of the trend.

Recent anti-smoking legislation stripped bar owners, and the like, of the right to determine smoking policies on their own private property. Here the HRC allows such rights in employment practices.

The PC platoon only allow us property rights if we our property in accordance with their values.

It¹s all part of the politicisation of every aspect of human existence. Everything is political and therefore everything is subject to bureaucratic management. Inevitably such regulations are determined according to the PC agenda of the special interests that make up the power base of the government.

The one common theme in all PC legislation is that it transfers power from the individual to the politicians or their appointed bureaucratic agents.

They pretend to believe in free speech but they have censorship boards and ban speech they ³deem² hate speech. Of course they get to define what is hate. We can discriminate against groups they don¹t like but not against groups that are part of their coalition. We can use our property as we wish provided we ask, and receive, their permission first.

Once people demanded that the State bear the consequences for their bad choices through socialised health care, welfare and other such programs it was only a matter of time before the State started controlling what they did with their life.

After all, if the collective pays for the consequences of individual actions then surely it should control those actions as well. It¹s absurd to demand the one without having the other. If you don¹t like the results then check your premises.


Jim Peron is the executive director of the Institute for Liberal Values and editor of the recent book The Liberal Tide.

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