Photo: muadh N M via flickr
While smoking is not exactly the cheapest habit, it is about to become more expensive. Many health insurance providers who are teamed up with businesses are going to start charging smokers a higher premium. Companies are hoping that, by taking this drastic step, it will encourage workers to quit.There have been many efforts by society to reduce the amount of smoking that occurs. Smoking has been banned from many buildings, restaurants, casinos, and college campuses. Plus there have been higher taxes on cigarettes.
According to a survey published by the US centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “from 1965 to 2010, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults in the United States decreased from 42.4% to 19.3%, in part because of an increase in the number who quit smoking. Since 2002, the number of former U.S. smokers has exceeded the number of current smokers. Mass media campaigns, increases in the prices of tobacco products, and smoke-free policies have been shown to increase smoking cessation.”
However, for health insurance companies and employers that doesn’t seem to be enough. Big names in health insurance, like Aetna, have healthy lifestyle campaigns that focus on eating right, exercising, and quitting smoking. Plus businesses are either charging smokers more for health insurance, or even worse, firing them.
Well-known brands like Macy’s, Gannett Co Inc. and PepsiCo are starting to charge employees for smoking cigarettes. At Macy’s, employees have to pay an additional $35 a month for smokers’ health insurance. Gannett charges $60 a month, and PepsiCo is up to $600 a year. Companies like The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Union Pacific won’t hire smokers at all.
Employers are simply trying to save as much money as they can, due to the fact that health insurance rates continue to rise. Plus, unhealthy employees are seen as more of a liability than anything else. The CDC confirms these beliefs: “Cigarette smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke result in approximately 443,000 premature deaths and $193 billion in health-care costs and productivity losses in the United States each year.”
By turning to these drastic measures, employers hope that smoking will soon become obsolete. But, could this possibly be blurring work-life balance too much? I’m personally no fan of smoking, but it makes you wonder where the line will be drawn.
Do you believe that this step is going too far when it comes to rights in the workplace? Or do you agree with these health care companies and employers that smokers are a liability?
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