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Showing who's boss

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Everybody's seeking confrontation these days, grasping for ways to show superiority, getting even before we've been wronged. A minority group, smokers, endures much of this aggressive behavior.

It may be legal for the White County Medical Center in Searcy to refuse to hire anyone who smokes, but it is not right. The new policy will take effect Oct. 1. Current employees who smoke will not be required to quit. Management may have feared insurrection if they tried that.

Jobs are scarce, and they're about to become even scarcer in White County, for that 20 percent of the work force that smokes. The hospital says that smokers drive up health-care costs, thus increasing the bills of the hospital's patients. There may be truth in that. But is it enough to justify the application of on-duty rules to off-duty workers? There used to be general agreement that as long as an employee came to work and did his job, what he did on his own time was not the boss's business. That was a more tolerant era.

Smoking has become almost entirely a working-class vice. The Searcy hospital proposes to take one more pleasure away from people who don't have a lot. Some say that it's OK to force others to do things that are good for them. No, it's disrespectful and inconsiderate, and permitting it in one case encourages its use in others.

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