Is smoking covered by any Anti-Discrimination Acts?

A client recently asked me the question “during a job interview, can I ask someone if they are a smoker?” In short the answer is yes.

Smoking does not fall under any of the Anti-Discrimination Acts, meaning there is nothing illegal about refusing to hire a smoker. If smoking was found to be a disability, it would be illegal to discriminate against smokers. Although nicotine is an addiction, it may not be seen as a disability due to the range of alternatives available that allow employees to continue working, including nicotine patches and gum.

Although refusing to employ smokers is legal, there are alternatives to this approach. These include cigarette breaks being counted within an employees allocated break time, or using alternative measures of performance, as time spent at a desk doesn’t always indicate the productivity of an employee. It’s always important to remember how these approaches may affect your organisation, with a refusal to hire smokers having the potential to cause backlash from clients, customers and potential employees. Using alternative measures may eliminate the need to introduce a hiring ban on smokers, and allow your organisation every opportunity to succeed.

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