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Companies Get Tougher with Employees Who Smoke

August 1, 2011

Smoking costs the U. S. more than $193 billion a year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, per this Bloomberg Businessweek article.  For employers, a smoker is 18 percent more expensive than a nonsmoker, says Cathy Tripp, a consultant at Aon Hewitt.

That cost gap likely will widen beginning in 2018 when, under a provision of health reform legislation passed last year, companies with health plans that spend way more than average will have to pay an additional federal tax. That may push some to reduce employee coverage. “Employers have two choices: cut benefits or cut the trend” of rising medical costs to avoid the levy, Tripp says. “It has made all of them a lot bossier when it comes to employee lifestyle choices.”

Health-care companies have been among the most active at tackling smoking. The Cleveland Clinic banned the use of tobacco in 2005 and stopped hiring smokers two years later. Job candidates, including doctors, must have their blood tested for nicotine. Says Toby Cosgrove, chief executive officer of the clinic network: “If we want to be a model of health care, then we as an organization need to show our patients what a healthy lifestyle means.” Read more…

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