Pros and Cons: Side effects of smoking

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Not hiring smokers will push them to kick the habit

by Robin Della Corte

A new trend seems to be popping up across North America where employers, including several Canadian jobs posted on, are refusing to hire smokers.

“Everyone knows smoking kills you and we prefer to work with very intelligent people who aren’t choosing to kill themselves with every puff,” Rob Hall, Momentous Corp’s president told CTV news in an interview last week.

Hall stated that by refusing to hire smokers, it has slashed half the cost of employee health benefits compared to five or six years ago.

According to Stewart Harris, a law professor at Appalachian State University, “smokers cost more money. Smokers miss more workdays, smokers have more health problems.”

A recent study conducted by the University of Nottingham showed that smokers are 33 per cent more likely to miss work, taking an average of 2.74 more sick days than non-smokers.

It has been estimated by the Conference Board of Canada that, on average, an employee who smokes costs employers $3,396 a year, as reported by Health Canada in 2008.

These costs are associated with increased absenteeism, lower productivity, unscheduled smoke breaks, maintenance of smoking areas, property damage and health and fire insurance costs.

The study also shows that smoke-free environments increased productivity, increased morale, lowered cleaning costs and lessened exposure to secondhand smoke for all non-smoking employees.

With these factors, many employers have introduced policies that restrict smoking in the workplace, limited certain types of jobs to non-smoking employees and offered programs designed to encourage and assist employees quit smoking.

From experience, I see that smokers generally take more breaks. From the five jobs I’ve worked, two of them were in restaurants—and if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you’d know that in most cases you can’t have a lunch break. However, smokers are allowed to step outside sometimes five or more times in a day, depending on the boss’s restrictions.

I would work like everyone else, a seven or eight hour shift, not having one single break and it would frustrate me more than anything being almost the only one working for those straight hours while almost all the workers would have the luxury of stepping out and taking their time with their cigarette.

Companies have the right to hire who they want as long as it doesn’t discriminate under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Although it does come down to a personal choice of lifestyle, smoking is not who you are; it’s a choice you made that does have negative consequences.

Instead of defending smoking, maybe smokers should take this as even further motivation to quit.

We’re already unproductive, smoking doesn’t change that

by Victor Barbaros

Do you smoke? You better think twice. Actually, more than twice or you might have trouble finding a job.

According to a recently published article on CTV, a growing number of private companies in Canada, as well as in the U.S. and abroad have begun to include the “non-smokers only” requirement when looking for new employees.

When I saw this article for the first time, I thought it was a joke; it’s ridiculously unfair to include the non-smoking status as a prerequisite for a job. I figured this was a discriminatory condition. Still, I decided to compare my thoughts with some official sources, mainly the Canada Labour Code.

A passage from the government of Canada’s website states that, “The Code does not provide for breaks over the work day. Most employers provide two paid ‘coffee’ breaks during the day. But to protect workers with unscrupulous employers, this practice needs to be enacted.”

Labour Standards in Quebec also allow for a coffee break, which is, “not obligatory, but when it is granted by the employer it must be paid and be included in the calculation of the hours worked”.

By law, during a working day we are allowed a minimum of 30 minutes for a lunch break, which is not paid. We also have a “coffee break”, which is defined by the employer when it comes to duration, but is paid.

Let’s be frank; during a full day shift, we don’t work each and every second. We take the time to talk to our colleagues, our bosses, get our coffee and so on.

So, you see, it’s not just the act of smoking that determines the quality and productivity of one’s employees. Smoking is not the only time-spending habit that is worth consideration.

This isn’t to say that smoking doesn’t decrease productivity. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, most smokers are addicts. This means that an employee-smoker wouldn’t smoke his “morning-cigarette” and “lunchtime” cigarette (like you do with your coffee). In most of the times the smoker would need a puff each one to two hours. What’s funnier, the smokers usually don’t like to smoke alone; they need a companion, a partner that shares the same habit, so don’t be surprised when you see that they are going in couples. The time spent by an employee enjoying his or her cigarette may vary from insignificant to substantial.

I don’t try to cover this counterargument, however, I don’t believe productivity is the issue that most people have against hiring smokers. I think that the antismoking attitudes in our society and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle are reinventing themselves.

Since the 1950s we’ve heard about legal trials lost by big tobacco producers based on the insufficient advertising of the negative effects on the population’s health.

We speak about the risks of smoking everywhere, however, according to the 2010 Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, 17 per cent of Canadians aged 15 years and older are smoking.

Smoking may not be good for you, but ultimately it’s not fair to favour job applicants who make different lifestyle choices. We are entitled to certain breaks and how employees spend them shouldn’t be controlled.


Do we really learn the lessons from our past?

Press photo for Roadmap to Apartheid

Roadmap to Apartheid, while using a lyrical intro with picturesque lands in Palestine and Israel, is immediately contrasted with the reality of life there, which has been for decades the centre of armed conflict. Filmmakers Ana Nogueira and Eron Davidson have provided an introspective of the Israeli-Gaza conflict, by tracing a parallel to the rise and the fall of the apartheid system in South Africa. In this way, they are making the argument that Palestine is living in an apartheid-like system.

The filmmakers have successfully and concisely presented the realities lived by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Nogueira and Davidson contrast how it was in South Africa as well as how Palestinians today are living, making it clear even for a viewer that is not familiar with the subject.

Roadmap to Apartheid presents impressive and thoughtfully matched video shots of Palestinians’ everyday life combined with a narrative voice that emphasizes the effects produced by what is seen in those images. The film’s strength is in the way it links the events experienced by Palestinians with corresponding archived materials showing the course of the apartheid system from 1948 to 1994.

The film also includes expert opinions and insights from the world’s leading authorities on both South African and Israeli apartheid including Diana Buttu, Jeff Halper, Na’eem Jeenah, Ali Abunimah, Ziad Abbas, Phyllis Bennis, Jonathan Cook, Jamal Jumá, Yasmin Sooka, the late Dennis Brutus, Salim Vally, Eddie Makue, Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, Allister Sparks and Sasha Polakow-Suransky.

The film presents a continuous transition from the taped material and interviews that smoothly changes into third person narratives. Roadmap to Apartheid is a highly ambitious and interesting project that speaks out about a sensitive subject put in context with another historical conflict.

Roadmap to Apartheid screens Monday March 11, in Rm H-110 at 1455 de Maisonneuve W. at 7 p.m.


When I was your age, cars didn’t even exist

In Sudbury, Ont., a new anonymous hotline will potentially be implemented in order for residents to be able to report seniors they think shouldn’t be on the road anymore.

The new anonymous phone line has been designed to warn officers about seniors which the caller considers unfit to drive. According to the task force, it was apparently created in order to protect seniors.

That may be the case, but let’s delve deeper into the problem here. The Ministry of Transport of Ontario’s most recent Road Safety Annual Report from 2008 includes information on the number of collisions, fatal or otherwise.

One section called “Occurrence of Driver Condition in Drivers Killed,” we can see only three criteria that might be applicable to the case of seniors. The criteria, such as use of impairing drugs, fatigue, and medical/physical disability, put together make for 6.1 per cent of all drivers implicated in an accident.

In the section on “Driver Age by Driver Condition in all Collisions,” it is shown that most accidents are not due to seniors. In fact, according to the data, it would be wiser to assess the driving abilities of 21-year-olds.

The report goes on to state that the age group 75 and older account for roughly three to five per cent of the total number of accidents. So if the number of accidents for this age group is not as big a concern as in other groups, what made the police consider this ridiculous idea?

Another reason might be the frequency and quality of the assessment of a senior’s driving ability. However, senior drivers fill out medical forms quite often. The medical examination form is filled out for different reasons, such as a change of driver’s licence, change in health status and/or age group and treatment or prescriptions taken. But there is a reason why this medical examination form is called medical: it needs a trained health professional to assess it.

And, after all, the police task affirms that the first measure taken after receiving the call would be to check its validity by requiring the expert’s opinion.

So what is the main purpose of this measure if its implementation would not drastically reduce the incidence of accidents? It just adds an anonymous intermediate, with an unknown qualification, where every single piece of information would have to be checked. Needless to say, this sounds expensive and useless.

Having a phone call made from an anonymous person is absolutely pointless. Seniors are those who produce one of the least elevated number of accidents and they are the group most frequently checked by a physician.

And after all, by definition this action could be called discrimination by age. Have they considered installing such a phone line in a hospital or at a local CLSC, for example? I think the seniors would be more grateful to receive a quick medical assessment instead of a convocation for a medical exam to determine their driving fitness.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Student Life

Wake up! You are missing . . . the winter blues

Graphic Jennifer Kwan

It’s 8 a.m. and your alarm goes off. You open one eye and then the other just enough to finally shut the snooze that’s been running since 7 a.m. You may be running late, but it’s only Monday and you’ll have another four chances this week to be on time.

On your way to class you realize that the first espresso didn’t help you too much.

Your week seems never ending and your weekends are just not long enough. You look around and realize you’re not the only one with a gloomy look on your face, and that’s the silver lining. You’re officially experiencing the winter blues.

To help you diagnose your level of the winter blues and offer helpful advice we have consulted Irene Petsopoulis, a psychologist at Concordia University’s counseling and development department, who gladly offered her expertise.

According to Petsopoulis, the winter blues is like a state of depression, mainly during the winter months. Usually it starts in the autumn and can persist up to early spring. If you are acquainted with seasonal affective disorder, then the winter blues could be considered as its lesser variant.

“The cause of winter blues is mainly considered as being the lack of light during the winter period; consequently, the insufficiency of light is causing an instability of melatonin levels, and this … has certain effects on your mood,”  she said.

It’s important that you notice the signs and symptoms that are characteristic of the winter blues. “Generally you feel a lack of energy, it’s difficult to wake up in the morning, you have a feeling that you cannot catch up with daily activities. It might also be observed as a feeling of self-blame (you might attribute to yourself for being unsuccessful in your tests, exams, workouts) which is a wrong approach,” said Petsopoulis.

Furthermore, some of us may experience unfamiliar cravings such as preferences for sweet snacks or carbohydrates.

As to the frequency of the winter blues in the Concordia community, Petsopoulis said that “it’s not an uncommon phenomenon. It certainly doesn’t meet the same levels as in U.S.A., which estimates an incidence of about 25 per cent of college students experiencing the symptoms of the winter blues”.

She mentions that students may not experience every symptom of the winter blues. More often than not, they come with a few complaints that match the characteristics of it. Thankfully Petsopoulis offered some practical advice on how to deal with the most common symptoms.

Considering these blues are caused by the lack of light in the cold winter months, the first advice is to get more sunlight exposure. You can do that by spending more time outside during the less chilly days and, if you’re courageous enough, even exercising outside would be quite helpful. You don’t need to spend long hours like in the gym, only a couple of minutes of a heart pumping workout is enough. Sometimes going for a walk or being with friends for a couple of hours can be sufficient. It may be difficult, but you should try to wake early in the morning so as not to lose those precious sunny hours.

Another quick reminder would be to eat right and incorporate vitamin D in your diet. Be sure to include more fruits and vegetables than usual and try not to skip a meal. Some of the best fruits and vegetables you should include in your winter diet are pomegranates, brussels sprouts, squash, kiwis as well as some good old fashion oatmeal and chicken soup.

Petsopoulis’ most important advice to students is to seek help. “You should never ever stay locked in your room, thinking that this might pass by itself,” she said. “It would be more productive to speak with your friends, to speak about what you are feeling, how you are dealing with, whether it works or not. Ask for assistance in our department. We are here for you.”

Now it’s time to get out of your room and take advantage of the fresh fallen snow. As soon you know it February will be over and soon so will your winter blues.


To seek help or advice, visit the Concordia counselling and development website at

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