Employers in Europe are free to refuse smokers a job, confirming their status as the continent's last pariahs.
The European Commission, which has presided over a vast array of anti-discrimination legislation in the past six years, has confirmed that it does not cover tobacco users.
Asked whether a job advert saying that "smokers need not apply" breached European law, Vladimir Spidla, the commissioner for employment and equal opportunities, said it did not.
"A job advertisement saying that 'smokers need not apply' would not seem to fall under any of the . . . prohibited grounds [under EU legislation]," he added in a written reply to Catherine Stihler, a member of the European parliament.
The reply was vetted by the Commission's lawyers, Mr Spidla, a former Czech premier, said EU anti-discrimination law only "prohibits discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, disability, age, sexual orientation and religion and belief in employment and other fields." .
Mrs Stihler, a British Labour party MEP, had taken up the case of an Irish call centre company that placed such an advert in May for a constituent. The Irish government had said it did not breach any law.
Philip Tobin, the director of Dotcom Directories, the company concerned, said smokers were anti-social and took too much sick leave.
He told Irish radio in May: "If people are smoking on a coffee break or in their own time, they come back into the office and they stink. We have a very small office here and it would make things unbearable for the other staff.
"If these people can ignore so many warnings and all that evidence then they haven't got the level of intelligence that I am looking for. Smoking is idiotic."
Forest, a British pro-smoking pressure group, said it was distressed but not surprised by Mr Spidla's view.
"We all know employers discriminate on all sorts of grounds, from being too fat to the wrong colour hair. But for it to be so overt is depressing and shows that smokers are fair game," said Simon Clark, Forest's director. "If people are asked whether they smoke in a job interview, we advise them to lie. If you are a social smoker who enjoys a cigarette in the pub in the evening it should not be your employers' business."
Mr Spidla's response "opens a real can of worms", he said, adding: "Who will be next? People who drink or who are too fat?"
Forest said that European humans rights law guarantees the right to a private life and that it would bring a test case on behalf of anyone sacked for smoking outside office hours.
Mrs Stihler, an anti-smoking campaigner, welcomed Mr Spidla's support for a workplace ban on smoking included in his answer. While Ireland and the UK have led the way in this area, other EU members such as Germany are more equivocal. But she asked: "It does make you wonder about other areas such as people who can't drive or those who drink."
The World Health Organisation announced this year it would no longer hire smokers to work at its Geneva headquarters.
Mr Spidla, a veteran anti-communist and anti-smoker, is studying whether to introduce legislation to protect workers from the effect of passive smoking. That could might one day make it too risky for businesses to employ those who indulge.