Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Work Place Health: Up in Smoke

By Dan McCauley
            Over the past few decades, the world has identified smoking as a hazard and has taken many steps in cleaning up the air in the workplace, public areas and other establishments. This topic of debate is a very controversial one and it has many different ethical issues that arise from it. For the most part there is no smoking in office buildings and government buildings. Though there are some privately owned businesses that still have employees smoking inside as well as establishments where food and drinks are served. Casinos are a large part of the cash flow in this country and most casinos fall in this category of smoking establishments. Human Resource Managers have to go through many ethically challenging decisions when it comes to this topic. It is the ethical struggle of someone’s well-being and profitability of the company. You would imagine this to be a no brainer but unfortunately it is not.
            This relates to our course in a few different facets. The most obvious is the health and safety of people in the workplace. Another way the laws that work places and public establishments must follow. Finally, is the compensation for people who work in these hazardous environments.
Pro Smoking
            The Casino owners are in favor of smoking in the casinos. In 2009, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the government in Connecticut came into some very interesting ethical issues. The state government was trying to implement a no smoking policy on the casino on behalf of the workers and non-smoking patrons. The Tribal Nation is claiming that they cannot do this because it is a sovereign nation with their own set of laws. Furthermore, if the government put this ban into place then it would be able to withdraw from giving the state government the percentage of their revenues while this is being contested. Taking this action would result in a loss in the hundreds of millions of dollars (Pazniokas, 2009).
            In Las Vegas, people consider it a smoker’s oasis because you are free to smoke in all the casinos. Even with the majority of the people who live there voting to ban smoking, the casinos have too much political power (Nagourney, 2010). This is not very ethical but somehow it is legal. People do have their choice to smoke while in the casinos. If it were non-smoking they could be cutting out a big portion of their patrons and that is not ethically sound. It is still legal so it is still “ethical” to have it in the establishment.
Cons of Smoke
The U.A.W., who has many political ties, was also part of the negotiations for the working conditions for the 2,500 dealers at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. The whole reason they don’t want this to happen is it could hurt their bottom line. This same set of casinos had the idea to serve alcohol 24 hours because they saw a possible 5 million dollar increase in profits. That same month a drunk driver hit a bus with college kids going on a mission trip overseas. He was previously at the casino (Pazniokas, 2009). As you can see the moral compass and ethics of these establishments are not for the greater good but for the money.
Ms. Kastroll, a dealer for 20 years, said that dealers were often locked at tables for an hour at a time. ''We get every kind of direct cigarette smoke, sometimes intentionally blown on us because they are losing,'' she said. ''You're not allowed to fan, you can't blow it back on them. Forget the employee -- it's all about their bottom line.'' She is the lead plantiff in a class action lawsuit against the Las Vegas casinos (Nagourney, 2010). If they followed ethical decisions then they would be able to avoid situations like this. They feel that the amount of money they will pay in the settlement doesn’t outweigh the amount they would lose from banning smoking. The human element doesn’t cross their mind.
Since smoking bans have gone into place at restaurants and other public establishments the number of heart attacks, strokes, and respiratory disease has decreased by an alarming rate. These bans are the direct result of people in not only human resource positions but every day people having a good set of personal ethics. In 2007, a study in Minnesota showed that after an expanded ban of smoking was implemented to workplaces and other establishments that the number of heart attacks decreased by 33% (Szabo, 2012) The law is making workplaces and establishments safer and taking the difficult ethical dilemmas out of HRs hands.
            From going through these different situations and articles you should take away a number of different ideas and themes.
·        Money should not influence you own personal set of ethics.
·        Some things that are legal are not always ethical.
·        You should not perform unethical behaviors for the possibility of a profit because the risk reward for it is not there.
·        Someone’s health and well-being does not have a price.
·        Ethical decisions are not easy, but look at the outcome and what the greater good is.
Nagourney, A. (2010, November 12). Las vegas casinos are a last bastion for smokers. The New York Times, pp. 19.
Pazniokas, M. (2009, April 26). State weighs ban on casino smoking. The New York Times, pp. 1.

Szabo, L., & Today, ,Usa. (2012, October 30). Smoking bans cut number of heart attacks, strokes; analysis shows positive impact on health -- and on health care costs. Usa Today, pp. 4A.

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