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Dr. Oz up in smoke

Michael Tomlin

Michael Tomlin

Challenging Dr. Mehmet Oz is assuredly an unpopular position, but just maybe he should stick to doctoring, or join me on the opinion pages. Truth is, his recent rant on quit-smoking programs is bad social science and bad business.

Oz rightly asserts in newspapers across the nation that smoking is a drag on worker productivity. Sickly people, slower production, absenteeism, and high medical bills and insurance costs. That’s documented and it’s the poor thanks smoking workers give us for their jobs, their pay, and their insurance coverage. But Oz blames legislators for taking funding from quit-smoking programs.

Citing numbers like $162 million per state for smoking cessation training Dr. Oz chides lawmakers for spending some of that money on jobs creation. So the choice should be ignore jobs for good workers and treat self-inflicted low productivity-by-choice workers? Got it, but I don’t buy it.

I do buy that many smokers want to quit, and Oz cites numbers such as 74 percent of them. OK quit. There is one way to do anything in life – do it. If you need to cut credit card debt, first quit spending. Want to lose weight, simply push back from the dinner table and take a walk around the block. And do it today.

The same applies to smoking. My late father-in-law went in the Navy at 17, during WWII, started smoking, and smoked his entire life … until he saw his first grandbaby. He tossed his cigarettes and extended his life – by all doctors’ accounts – by 10 years. No fancy smancy expensive quit-smoking program needed. And Oz says you can’t quit “by going cold turkey.” Bull feathers.

I understand Oz’s point though, that many people are weak, can’t or won’t take responsibility for their selves, can’t do something and stick to it. It is one of the saddest effects of our economic success and national standard of living. We’ve become slothful and expectant in our living. Dependent on everything except a little personal gumption. We want to quit smoking like we want everything else – someone should pay to make it better.

The business world could help nudge these people, free of charge, simply by not hiring smokers. Smoke, and you don’t work. There’s a motivator. Smoke, and you don’t get insurance – there’s health care reform I can support. Of course legislators could really play dirty pool and pass a law forbidding the sale of cell phones to smokers. That would end it in a day.

Of course it wouldn’t, we would spend our tobacco settlement millions on lawsuits defending peoples “rights” to cost us billions with their personal choices. And that is what Dr. Oz wants – he should just have to want it on the editorial pages with me. With my wild belief that personal responsibility and individual accountability are the foundation of our economy. I know, that’s crazy talk in the land of Oz.

About Michael Tomlin


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  10. You are 100% right, Michael. The only thing I’d have to consider is selective hiring. I’m not necessarily against it on these grounds, but I don’t know all the implications or removing ability to perform the job as the major criteria for hiring. But the fundamental premise is: quit trying to social engineer people’s lives.

    Your summary point that personal responsibility and individual accountability are the foundation of our economy is completely correct.

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