An Ottawa-based tech company has courted attention and controversy with a policy not to hire smokers.

Momentous Corp., which owns brands including mail-order movie rental company Zip.ca, says it has a strict policy not to hire smokers. That means not only are employees not allowed to take smoke breaks, they aren’t allowed to smoke on their own time, either.

We drink. We swear. We don’t fucking smoke,” says one of the company’s value statements. (Another one declares, “We’ve got more balls than Ikea.”)

Everyone knows smoking kills you and we prefer to work with very intelligent people who aren't choosing to kill themselves with every puff,” Momentous President Rob Hall said, as quoted at CTV News.

Hall said the practice has slashed the costs of the company’s health care benefits and increased productivity.

We're a team here, we work well together, we don't have people who leave spontaneously in middle of a meeting for a smoke break. We take care of our health and work well together,” marketing manager Alex Hosselet told CTV.

As the National Post noted, the company has some other hiring policies that could stir controversy: You can’t be allergic to dogs to work at Momentum, because there are dogs in the office.

But it’s the no-smokers policy that is attracting attention, because it’s part of a trend that has been growing in North America, particularly in the United States where numerous companies and even some municipal governments have instituted such a policy.

At the same time, some U.S. states have acted against no-smoker policies. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), 29 U.S. states have passed laws preventing the screening-out of smokers.

A hospital in Pennsylvania last year announced it would no longer hire smokers and would implement a nicotine test to enforce the policy. A network of hospitals in California recently followed suit.

But it’s not just hospitals. The municipality of Delray Beach, Florida, banned the hiring of smokers last year on the argument they add $12,000 per employee to health care costs. The city of Fort Worth, Texas, contemplated a similar rule last year.

Many critics, including some anti-smoking activists, argue the approach is wrongheaded.

"Somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of smokers, at any given time, want to quit smoking and they need help, they don't need to be penalized,” Melodie Tilson of the Non Smokers’ Rights Association told CTV.

While some critics say no-smokers policies amount to an invasion of workers’ privacy, others say policies like this could cause social problems.

The policy “results in a failure to care for people, places an additional burden on already-disadvantaged populations, and preempts interventions that more effectively promote smoking cessation,” states the NEJM study mentioned above.

The study most strongly opposed the implementation of such policies in hospitals, which certainly appears to be a trend in the U.S., calling it “paradoxical” for a place of healing to refuse to employ people suffering from an addiction.

Backers of the trend say that, besides saving money on health costs and increasing productivity, policies like these move society as a whole in the right direction.

"We have to make it uncool to smoke ... [I]t is a huge economic drain and a quality drain on the workforce as well,” TV health guru Dr. Mehmet Oz told CTV.

A separate NEJM study recently predicted that such policies would eventually become the norm.

Loading Slideshow...
  • You'll Be Less Anxious

    Even though smokers may believe taking a long drag on a cigarette can help to calm nerves, a British study published earlier this year suggests that <em>quitting</em> can actually decrease anxiety more over the long-term. "People who achieve abstinence experience a <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2013/01/02/smoking-quit-anxiety.html">marked reduction in anxiety</a> whereas those who fail to quit experience a modest increase in the long term," researchers wrote in the British Journal of Psychiatry study, as reported by CBC News. Similarly, a 2010 study in the journal Addiction showed that <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/06/17/us-smoking-idUSTRE65G0CX20100617">perceived stress decreased</a> for people who quit smoking for a year after hospitalization for heart disease, Reuters reported.

  • Your Mouth Will Thank You

    Quitting the habit could dramatically <a href="http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=661533">decrease your risk of dental problems</a> like cavities and gum disease, and even more dangerous conditions like oral cancer, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HealthDay reported that <a href="http://consumer.healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=661533">compared with former smokers</a>, smokers have a 1.5-times higher risk of developing at least three oral health conditions.

  • Your Sex Life Will Be Better

    Here's a bedroom-related reason to quit smoking: studies have suggested a link between smoking and decreased sex drives for both men <em>and</em> women. Studies published in 2008 in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that nicotine can affect even <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17971108">nonsmoking men's</a> and <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18331269">women's sexual arousal</a>. And if that's not enough to convince you, well, there's also <a href="http://healthland.time.com/2011/09/15/guys-quitting-smoking-makes-it-bigger-really/">this</a>.

  • You'll Save Your Skin

    If you want your skin to be at its best, then you're better off quitting cigarettes. WebMD points out that smoking <a href="http://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/ss/slideshow-ways-smoking-affects-looks">affects skin tone</a>, promotes sagginess and, of course, causes those wrinkles around the lip area. However, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery notes that just a month-and-a-half after <a href="http://www.surgery.org/consumers/plastic-surgery-news-briefs/skin-quit-smoking-1031403">quitting smoking</a>, your skin will already begin to look better.

  • You'll Have More Locks

    If you love your hair, maybe it's time to put the cigarettes down. Research has linked smoking with an increased risk of male pattern baldness. BBC News reported in 2007 on a Archives of Dermatology study, showing even after taking into account other hair-loss risk factors like age and race, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/5413382.stm">heavy smoking</a> (at least 20 cigarettes daily) raised the risk of baldness. And a 2011 study showed that smoking, stress, drinking and genes were all<a href="http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/news/20110923/divorce-heavy-drinking-smoking-linked-to-hair-loss"> risk factors for baldness</a>, WebMD reported.

  • Your Mood Will Improve

    Here's a pretty good benefit: Stopping smoking could <a href="http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2010/12/smoking">make you a happier person</a>, according to research from Brown University. Researchers there found that smokers were <a href="http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2010/12/smoking">never happier</a> than when they were quitting smoking, even if they went back to smoking afterward. According to a <a href="http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2010/12/smoking">news release</a>: <blockquote> The most illustrative — and somewhat tragic — subjects were the ones who only quit temporarily. Their moods were clearly brightest at the checkups when they were abstinent. After going back to smoking, their mood darkened, in some cases to higher levels of sadness than before.</blockquote>

  • You'll Have More Birthdays

    Stopping smoking may <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/29/women-stop-smoking-live-10-years-longer_n_2011804.html">help women live a decade longer</a> than they would have if they had continued lighting up, according to a 2012 study in The Lancet. Researchers also found that the more the women smoked, the higher their risk of premature death, with even "light" smokers (those who smoked just one to nine cigarettes a day) having a doubled risk of death compared with non-smokers. "If women smoke like men, they die like men -- but, whether they are men or women, smokers who stop before reaching middle age will on average <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-10/l-soa102312.php">gain about an extra ten years of life</a>," study researcher Professor Sir Richard Peto, of the University of Oxford, said in a statement.

  • You'll Improve Your Pregnancy Chances

    If you're trying to conceive, one of the best things you can do is to quit smoking, research shows. NBC News reported that women smokers have a 60 percent <a href="http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/16874634/ns/today-today_health/t/trying-conceive-quit-smoking/#.UOr-7onjlU4">higher chance of being infertile</a>, compared with nonsmokers. Smoking is also linked to more spontaneous miscarriages, according to NBC News.

  • You'll Enjoy Food More

    If you <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=8427779#.UOsAFInjlU4">don't like bland food</a>, then don't smoke, research suggests. A small 2009 study of Greek soldiers shows an association between smoking and <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-08/bc-stf081809.php">"fewer and flatter" taste buds</a>, according to a statement on the research.

  • Your Colds Won't Be As Bad

    Mild cold symptoms could take on a more serious form for smokers, according to a study from Yale University researchers. The findings, published in 2008 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed an <a href="http://news.yale.edu/2008/07/24/study-shows-why-cigarette-smoke-makes-flu-other-viral-infections-worse">overreaction of the immune systems</a> of cigarette smoke-exposed mice when exposed to a virus similar to the flu. "The anti-viral responses in the cigarette smoke exposed mice were not only not defective, but were hyperactive," study researcher Dr. Jack A. Elias, M.D., said in a statement. "These findings suggest that smokers do not get in trouble because they can't clear or<a href="http://news.yale.edu/2008/07/24/study-shows-why-cigarette-smoke-makes-flu-other-viral-infections-worse"> fight off the virus</a>; they get in trouble because they overreact to it."

  • Quitting Smoking And Money Saving

    Eletta Hansen explains some facts about smoking, and discusses how much money will you save if you quit smoking