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Policies Against Smokers, and the Responsibilities of Cities

July 06, 1986

I find it appalling that, on a day (June 29) when much of the Los Angeles Times' opinion section is devoted to Lady Liberty and the celebration of freedom in these United States, the lead editorial in the Orange County section would applaud the cities of Brea and Laguna Beach for their impending policies against the hiring of smokers in their fire departments and police/fire departments, respectively.

While it is obvious that smoking is hazardous to one's health, this scarcely is reason for such discriminatory actions. The editorial attempts to justify the cities' actions by saying that "overweight applicants face restrictions in hiring because they are greater disability risks," but are these "restrictions" actually policies against their hiring?

One would assume such "restrictions" apply to the fact that overweight people would be at a disadvantage when it comes to passing the required physical fitness tests. Smokers would also be at a disadvantage in passing these tests, but because of Brea's policy, they won't even be given the opportunity to take these tests. In Laguna Beach, candidates who are smokers will be given second-class citizenships and will be considered only after all nonsmoking applicants have been reviewed.

If this line of absurd reasoning is played out, what is to stop a city from formulating a discriminatory policy against the hiring of women? Many women take advantage of health benefits and time away from their jobs to have babies. How about one against anybody over the age of 50? Surely older people fall victim to illnesses more often than young people.

Smoking is extremely bad for you, but surely it is your choice. To be discriminated against for your choice is but another step toward a tyrannical state. To think that The Times would support such legislation is beyond my belief.

Whatever happened to a citizen's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

ROBERT ROHWER

Irvine

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