The World Health Organization today announced that it will no longer hire anyone who consumes tobacco products. "WHO has taken a very public lead in the fight against tobacco use," WHO spokesman Iain Simpson told the Associated Press. "As a matter of principle, WHO does not want to recruit smokers." To his credit, A.P. reporter Sam Cage pressed WHO to elucidate this principle:
When asked whether WHO would soon stop hiring obese people or those drinking alcohol, spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said the agency was aware that its new rules "may seem discriminatory or even politically incorrect" to some. But she stressed that WHO needs to align its own employment practices with its principles.
"WHO tries to encourage people to try and lead a healthy life. There is safe sex, one can drink alcohol in a reasonable way and one can attempt eating in a balanced fashion," Chaib said. "But with tobacco, there is no middle ground. It is black and white, and it kills half of those consuming it."
WHO's desire to impose ideologically dictated lifestyle choices on its employees may be many things, but "politically incorrect" is not one of them. And the assertion that "with tobacco, there is no middle ground" has no scientific basis. According to A.P., WHO's ban covers anyone who admits to using tobacco, which would include pipe and cigar smokers, users of oral snuff, and anyone who has the occasional cigarette in a bar. These people face health risks ranging from negligible to slight. So exactly what "principle" is at stake here, other than blind hatred of a particular psychoactive plant?
[Thanks to the Drug Policy Alliance's Nikos Leverenz for the link.]