You would think that private companies choosing to not employ smokers would be a non-issue to libertarians. The only comment I expected to see was basically “It’s a private company, they should be allowed to pick who they hire.” I was wrong:
In any case, these objections, however sincere, strike me as fundamentally misplaced. Employers may well have sound financial reasons for declining to hire smokers. Although smokers seem to have lower lifetime medical expenses than nonsmokers do because they tend to die sooner, they may be more costly to insure during their working careers and more likely to take sick days. In addition, medical businesses such as hospitals may see modeling healthy behavior as part of their missions and therefore may want to avoid hiring nurses or orderlies who smoke. Whatever their reasons, they should be free to apply the criteria they consider appropriate; freedom of contract means people should not be forced to hire smokers, any more than they should be forced to hire nonsmokers.
The real slippery slope threat comes not from increasingly nosy employers but from an increasingly intrusive government that considers promoting “public health” part of its mission and interprets that concept broadly enough to encompass everything people do that might increase their own risk of disease or injury. That totalitarian tendency is reinforced by the government’s ever-expanding role in health care, which transforms a moralistic, pseudo-medical argument into a fiscal imperative by giving every taxpayer a stake in his neighbor’s lifestyle. A smoker or fat guy turned away by one employer can always look for work elsewhere, but citizens subject to the state’s coercive health-oriented interventions cannot easily pick a different government.
To understand the essence of libertarianism, you have to be able to see what you consider and by your own admission is a non-existent issue (private companies deciding to not hire smokers) to some unrelated slippery slope argument about neighborhood vigilantes picking on fat neighbors who smoke because the “totalitarian” government has given them a financial incentive.
*** Update ***
I denounce Stalin and the broccoli mandate.