It is probably because you are a higher statistical cost liability, both in benefit cost as well as potential lost time for health reasons.
If you had 2 people of equal experience and education applying for a job, both interviewed equally well, but one would cost your company several thousands more in benefit costs, it is logical you would hire the one who didn’t incur the increased expense.
“lost time for health reasons”
Not many smokers that I know are out because of illness due to smoking.
The “protected classes” have as much or more likelyhood of being ill. It’s just that the smokers are EVIL!!!/s
That being said, I think any employer should have the right to hire/not hire a person for any reason. Including those in the “protected classes”.
As a current employer, I hire smokers, but vastly prefer non-smokers. The jobs I currently have are outdoor construction jobs, and in that environment, smokers perform about 80% as much work per hour as non-smokers, simply due to the time spent smoking. A non-smoker will always out-perform a smoker. In addition, smokers tire more easily and can not perform manual labor for nearly the length of time non-smokers can.
And, I have never had to tell a non-smoker to police his butts. Some smokers will willingly comply with this request, some will bad-mouth me behind my back, and some have actually physically confronted me on this issue. If I can avoid this in the hiring interview, it is best handled there--smokers can go work somewhere else.
I previous worked in management in an indoor office setting, similar to your IT position. In that environment, smokers only perform 60-70% of the work non-smokers can. In an indoor environment smokers walk to the nearest entrance, socializing with their peers all the way, smoke outdoors, socialize for a few more minutes, and then walk back to their work area. I have timed this for smokers and it takes approximately 20 minutes per hour.
The company recognized this time drag and instituted a policy of not hiring smokers. They did not fire existing employees, but are slowly eliminating smokers by attrition.
I know this is not going to be a popular set of facts with smokers, but they are the facts.
Another issue is that smokers literally stink to non-smokers. A fact that few smokers are willing to recognize. You don't have to be actively smoking to smell bad, the smoke permeates your clothes and hair so that any non-smoker can always identify a smoker from 5-10 feet away, just by smell. Why hire a newcomer who has the potential to create dissention among existing employees?
Health concerns are lower down my list, but are still a valid issue.
You need to get used to the fact that the days of "smokers' rights" are long gone, and you have a habit which puts you squarely in the lower class and makes many question your intellectual capabilities.
My advice is to quit. You will have much better employment possibilities, and will have higher advancement potential.
I have been smoking for OVER 1/2 century, recently fell in the Kroger parking lot, broke my patella, had noting to do with my smoking...some people will believe anything....another freedom of choice make you less desirable. Just go kill your unborn baby and they will hire you without question...murder is fine....
Bogus argument in my real world experience. I watch our insurance costs rise based on our overall company claims. The 2 massive claims that have effected us all are on new borns. One was born premature and the other with heart problems. Using this logic we wouldn't hire anyone in their child bearing years.