Lawmakers vote to repeal Indiana's 'Smoker's Bill of Rights'

INDIANAPOLIS -- Lawmakers are seeking repeal of Indiana’s 1991 “Smokers Bill of Rights” which says employers can’t refuse to hire smokers and can’t charge them higher premiums for health insurance.

House Bill 1578, authored by Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer (R-Beech Grove), passed the House on Monday. It will now move to the Senate for consideration.

The legislation has prompted strong opinions from people on both sides of the issue.

“It’s discrimination. Whatever you want to call it,” said Kenny Keys. “They’ve got a law against it.”

“Once they start banning like this, they won’t hire you if you’re smoking,” said Sean Carter who works at Bolton’s Tobacco. “What’s going to be next? Something like you’re overweight, and they’re not going to hire you because you’re a health risk of diabetes or other health items.”

The current law states that an employer cannot require an employee or candidate to refrain from smoking. An employer also cannot discriminate against an employee when it comes to pay, benefits or terms of employment based on their use of tobacco products outside of work.

The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is part of the push to get rid of the law.

It costs business owners in the US more than $5,800 to employ a smoker, according to research from Ohio State University.

“There’s a cost of absenteeism that’s involved, there’s a cost of lost productivity,” said Human Resources consulting firm owner Christopher Schrader. “There are also additional medical care costs, and really the largest cost is the additional smoke breaks that must be given to an employee.”

According to WalletHub $170 billion is spent each year on direct medical care for adult smokers. Smokers area also up to six times more likely to visit a doctor than non-smokers.

The legislation had originally called for the smoking age to be raised from 18 to 21, but that provision was removed by the committee.

The House also approved legislation that would raise the cigarette tax in Indiana by $1 per pack. That bill has moved to the Senate earlier this month. 

RELATED | Group wants to raise cigarette tax to combat smoking in Indiana | Cigarette tax proposal targets smoking while raising revenues

Source: WalletHub
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