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Smokeless in Seattle

If you want to get hired, don't let smoking get in the way.
If you want to get hired, don't let smoking get in the way.

Washington State is only one of many states to ban smoking in public places.  The current wording makes it clear, smokers are not welcome in Washington State:

The Washington Clean Indoor Air Act of 1985 (RCW 70.160) was revised in December 2005 after voters approved Initiative 901.  The new, comprehensive law prohibits smoking in all indoor public places, including restaurants, bars, taverns, bowling alleys, skating rinks, non-tribal casinos, and in all places of employment (any place employees must pass through during the course of employment).  In addition, it prohibits smoking within 25 feet of entrances, exits, windows that open, and ventilation intakes that serve indoor public places or places of employment.

How does the non-smoking attitude affect your job search?  Understand there is absolutely discrimination against smokers. Smokers take time off task for smoke breaks, smell badly and are sometimes considered less intelligent than non smoking peers. Statistics indicate smokers take more sick days. Often a company will not hire smokers for insurance reasons.

Worse, some companies are taking drastic measures. According to USA Today, Weyco, a medical benefits provider based in Okemos, Mich., banned employees from smoking on their own time. Employees must submit to random tests that detect if someone has smoked. They must also agree to searches of briefcases, purses or other belongings if company officials suspect tobacco or other banned substances have been brought on-site. Those who smoke may be suspended or fired. Employees who smoked before the ban was passed are not fired; however, they can't get medical insurance through the company. Some companies have such a strong no-smoking policy for employees, new hires must submit to a urine test to prove they are tobacco-free. Is this the wave of the future for smokers?

It is clear that smoking and employment is a huge issue. Rather than make it an impediment to your own employment, take steps. This is not a lecture to quit, if you could have you would have. This is advice on how to handle smoking during your job search.

You may not smell it, but others can. Have your job search clothes laundered and kept separate from your other outfits, even if you have to keep them in the garage or a neighbor’s house. Do not let the new attire come into contact with any clothes worn while you were smoking.

Wear them for interviews and networking, but don’t smoke while wearing them. As nervous as you may be, don’t smoke before or during the interview. Most people are at worst, offended by the smell and at least, distracted.

If you are invited to interview over a meal and not smoking leaves you agitated or distracted, it is best to avoid the invitation. Conduct all interviews face to face in the office but not over a meal. Protect yourself from your own urge to smoke. One lapse may mean the difference between a job offer and a protracted search.


Rita Ashley is a job search coach who works with executives to create a compelling job search or road map to advancement.  In the last two years, 98% of her clients achieve their goals well within six months.  Want to read some testimonials?


  • Casey 5 years ago

    Great article. I did an internship with a CFO group in Seattle. The group was discussing healthcare costs and how to reduce the expenditure. A insurance consultant said hiring managers should smell candidates when they come in for an interview. Don't hire them if they smoke.

  • Dan 5 years ago

    It is more than a tad disconcerting to have a job interviewer "smell" you when you walk into a job interview. What's to keep the candidate from perceiving harrassment of some sort, or for reaching for the bag for some pepper spray. This view of 'quelling the smell', 'don't accept a job interview over a meal invitation', and 'don't hire them if they smoke' is totalitarian, discriminatory, vacant and condescending to smokers, especially those who have been doing it for a long time, are addicted and have no public option plans in place to get help and advice on quitting.

    I just cannot fathom that this advice can be taken on with great effect WITHOUT QUITTING SMOKING ALTOGETHER.

  • DotDoctor 4 years ago

    One of my current interview sets is for a very fitting position in Seattle. The position and company are very enticing on their own. Reading this article, just upped my desire to relocate here 1000 fold. Are the apt/condo complexes smoke free too? How wonderful! To be able to sit on your balcony or take a swim and not choke on smoke from your neighbor. My kind of neighborhood!

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