What policies should health-care facilities set for employees who smoke?

Medical facilities and businesses are starting to deny employment to smokers, both to promote healthy lifestyles and to hold down their own health-care costs. Today’s Question: What policies should health-care facilities set for employees who smoke?

  • Wade

    None. My employer pays me and in trade, I provide a service and my time. What i do on my own time is none of my employers business.

    I do not smoke and know it’s a terrible habit. However I despise big gov’t and employers thinking they own or control us.

  • Duane

    I think all employers should be allowed to place a hiring requirement on each employee. All the businesses I worked for had the health and welfare of their employee as a concern since it effected both the productivity and health of the employee and for that matter the people around them. Each business can set up the requirement but not the government.

  • Garyf

    Well, for current employees, you have to allow them to smoke on breaks. It’s a legal habit. If you make it very tough to smoke on work hours, expect poor productivity.

    I’d make any new hires well aware of the changing rules on smoke policy before even interviewing them.

    For all you folks who love to demonize smoking and are addicted to the tax revenue they bring, MAKE IT ILLEGAL!

    I don’t smoke because I can’t afford to smoke and pay enough taxes how it is without being “willing to pay” by smoking.

  • Matt

    I think it is MORE important for employers to offer existing employees support to help them quit:

    1) FULL Prescription Drug coverage for smoking cessation drugs (i.e. Patch, Gum, etc)

    2) Access to counseling support (this is a tough addiction for some to break)

    3) 100% Smokefree campus (inside and outside)

  • Molly

    Let’s face it, smoking costs us ALL way too much. Tobacco use still kills 5,000 Minnesotans each year. And annually smoking costs Minnesota $3 billion in excess medical costs. That’s $554 for every man, woman and child. Employers can and should play a part in helping to reduce health care spending. It’s in their best interest and will help their bottom line. The winning combination of a strong tobacco-free workplace policy and a smoking cessation benefit will help smokers quit. In turn, employers will benefit from lower health care spending, increased productivity and a healthy workplace culture. That’s a “win-win” in my book.

  • DanaN

    I think as long as a health care facility is providing health insurance to their employees, they do have the right to institute policies regarding smoking and the workplace. That being said, I believe a lot more could be done by employers to help their employees stop smoking. This includes ensuring that when they are electing which benefits will be a part of their health insurance, that these benefits include access to professional in-person counseling, as well as comprehensive coverage of medications to assist people in their efforts to quit smoking. Quitting smoking is hard and I think we could do better in how we support people who would like to quit.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Our so-called health care system has bigger problems than smoking among employees, such as the fact that it makes more money when people are sicker. If everyone suddenly quit smoking, ate right and exercised, it would be bad for business in the medical industry. The vast sums spent on treating diseases related to smoking (and other bad habits) go to prop up someone’s bottom line. Making health care employees quit smoking is a fine idea, but it’s window-dressing. (What’s next? Pull the licenses of obese nurses?) We need to find a way to get rid of the perverse incentives, so “health care” no longer means profiteering from illness.

  • Matthew

    Smokers are mobile nuisances and, worse, parasites when it comes to public health dollars. Laws prohibiting smoking in any way do not implicate privacy rights or liberty interests.

  • Jen

    Rather than deny employment to smokers, employers could really improve their bottom lines by investing in the health of their employees. Two key components – ensuring workplaces have strong smoke-free policies and offering comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits to employees who smoke – can result in a positive return on investment. In combination, these initiatives will lower health care spending, boost productivity, decrease absenteeism, and create a healthy workplace culture. Here’s a statistic employers might want to consider: On average, smokers miss 6.1 days of work per year due to sickness compared to nonsmokers who miss 3.86 days. So why reduce the talent pool by filtering out smokers when you can capitalize on their tobacco-free potential? Doesn’t that make good business sense?

  • KrisAnne

    Will health care workers also need to provide proof of a reasonable fitness regimen, healthy diet, moderate alcohol intake, safe sex practices, and a clean driving record in order to be employed?

    Keep the workplace smoke free; provide incentives to quit.

  • Rammit

    I believe MN has a, for lack of a better term, “Right to work” law. As I understand it, you cannot be denied employment based on legal activities (such as smoking tobacco) practiced on your own time.

  • Amanda

    Employers should support smoke-free worksites and overall employee health through a combination of tobacco-free policies AND comprehensive tobacco cessation benefits. This approach is the best way for employers to simultaneously promote the health of their employees and improve their bottom line. Instead of denying employment to smokers, provide them with the tools to quit, such as access to professional counseling and medication coverage, and support their attempts with a smoke-free work environment.

  • Raoul

    If smoking is a life style, a choice in a free country then should states ban a GLT life style because they have the highest rate of AIDS? The nanny state seems myopic.

  • Banner

    Now we have two Big Brothers trying to rule our lives, first the government now employers. Where does it stop? When we all wear red uniforms and march in parades on May 1st? Fly swastika flags on our houses?

    Employers have gone way beyond government in invading our private lives. One reason I don’t have a Facebook account is so a potential employer can’t spy on me. Who do these people think they are? The secret police?

    Smoking has NOTHING to do with high health care costs. it’s just an excuse to blame a certain group for society’s problems. Every society needs its scapegoats, somebody’s head to stand on and show off our pride. Jews in Nazi Germany, negroes before civil rights to name a few. Even if there was no such thing as tobacco health care would still be a luxury for only the rich. I’m surprised smokers don’t have to wear a band on their sleeves, or a tattoo on their foreheads declaring them “unclean”. There are fewer smokers today than there ever have been since the invention of the cigarette, so how can such a small and shrinking minority be responsible for all the costs of health care?

    Maybe some smokers don’t WANT to quit? Ever think of that? Should employers or health plans offer help for those who do want to quit? I guess so, but don’t expect stellar results either.

    To all those holier-than-thou non-smoking health Nazi’s who think you are better than me, (Matt/Matthew),look in the mirror. Would you consider yourself a “good” person because you don’t smoke? I would guess not. Unless you are perrr-fect!! in every way imaginable.

  • Kevin VC

    Considering smoking is initially a ‘choice’ and then quickly becomes a ‘addiction’ you are both the victimizer and victim…..

    3/4 th policy price burden increased on smokers.

    1/2 policy burden if they are enrolled in a ‘effective’ stop smoking program, but must be reviewed in terms of progress and user’s actual desire to quit.

    And beyond that denying employment is a bit harsh.

    If they want to smoke, then let them pay the price for it. Eventually that price should have a counter effect on the ‘want’…..

    Even if they quit, it has lasting detrimental effects on the body. Obviously the sooner one quits the more likely the damage can be reduced or less. or even reversed.

    I suspect this is due to Health Care costs?

    When we have Universal Health care finally I would still be in favor of making a smoker pay more for their side of the insurance until they get treatment and quit. No sense their initial life choices to become a burden. Plus it should be easier to Educate, provided the smoking industry does not try and reverse that.

  • Kevin VC

    (FYI: the policy price burden means your policy is increased by said amount. )

  • Alicia

    According to the 2010 Minnesota Adult Tobacco Survey, the majority of smokers want to quit smoking. In my opinion employers not only have the right but the responsibility to assist in improving the health of their workforce. Having access to affordable quit medications, counseling options and environments that support employees (and customers) who are trying to quit are easy ways employers can improved the health of their employees.

  • Paula

    We know that making it difficult to smoke (ie smoke-free policies) helps people quit. Health Care facilities, in particular, have an obligation to promote health and set a good example from within, which in turn, will improve their own workforce and offer improved service to their customers/patients. Offering access to cessation services is a great way to support employees while enforcing a very proactive and productive policy.

  • Tom

    I think all employers will agree that soaring health insurance costs significantly impact their ability to make a profit and to offer their employees an attractive benefits package. Not enough employers understand that their decisions about health benefits and workplace policies related to tobacco can reduce their costs and increase employee productivity. According to the CDC, “Paying for tobacco use cessation treatments is the single most cost-effective health insurance benefit for adults that can be provided to employees.”

    The CDC also reports that 70% of adult smokers want to quit and that most smokers need to make multiple attempts to quit before they succeed. When comprehensive tobacco cessation coverage is provided as a health benefit to employees, in combination with a company policy that prohibits tobacco use on company property, both indoors and outdoors, it is a win-win for employer and employee. Employees get the support they need to quit. Employees who stop using tobacco benefit from improved health. Employers benefit from reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.

  • Paula

    Tobacco use exacts a tremendous burden in our state – $2.87 billion annually in excess medical costs alone. Employers are well positioned to help reduce health care spending due to tobacco use by implementing evidence-based policies. When employers implement comprehensive smoke-free worksite policies and provide insurance benefits for smoking cessation, productivity improves, absenteeism is reduced, and health care spending is reduced. Moreover, these steps help to create a culture of health and wellness for both employees and customers. Since smoking cessation has been called “the gold standard for preventive services” by experts nationally, it makes good business sense for employers to implement policies to help smokers successfully quit.

  • Carolyn Peterson

    As a provider of health promotion programming for over 25 years, I have seen the real benefit to employees when employers provide resources and tools to assist their employees in choosing healthier lifestyles. Tobacco use is one of the areas employees want help and support in changing for better health.

    Employers, who take the time to implement wellness programs, including tobacco cessation, have a smoother transition to policy changes. The more employees can connect health behaviors to health outcomes, the more likely they are to support policy changes.

    Health care facilities today need to look at every way possible to help their employees stop tobacco use by offering progams to decrease stress, increase physical activity, and encourage healthy eating. Providing a tobacco-free campus for employees and visitors is a very positive message for all.

  • M T

    To deny employment, even to extent of “drug testing” for tobacco use is discrimination. No different than age, religion, gender, race, preference, etc… Smoking is LEGAL!!! Get it? If an employer can discriminate based on a legal activity, what stops them from other forms of discrimination? Alcohol use, overweight, divorced, single parent? Where does it stop?

  • Bear

    Smoking is a proven health hazard. second hand smoke affects non smokers. While by no means the only driver, smoking related illnesses are a contributor to escalating health cost.

    Second smokers feel they are entitled to a smoke break every hour. Non smokers must remain at their station. What gives?

    Health care workers smoking falls into the category of “walking the talk”. The same as personal trainer who does not work out, a dietican who needs to be on a diet etc.

    By all means, a health care facility should set the example. No smoking any where on it property. Its employees should walk the life style talk: smoking, exercise, and diet. Otherwise what credability do they have?

  • Task

    smokers feel they are entitled to a smoke break every hour. (Bear)

    Not true. This is another lie perpetuated by the anti-smoking zealots. A company has a break policy which all employees must abide by whether they smoke or not. Smokers DO NOT get extra breaks during the workday. If you think smokers do take extra breaks, what’s preventing you from doing the same? It’s the company’s problem, not the smoker.

    If health care workers, trainers, etc. must “walk-the-walk”, let’s have a morality test for any employment. So for instance, if say you are a cashier at Menards, then by all means you must build a house. Or else you can’t work there.

  • Bill

    I’m a provider in the mental health and chemical dependency field. I also hire and manage nursing and other healthcare staff. I also do not, nor never have, smoked. Despite the toll the effects of smoking / tobacco use, I don’t think employers should be able to use smoking as an exclusionary criterion for employment. There’s no doubt that tobacco can have harmful health effects, but it’s a legal substance. However, the same can be said for cheeseburgers, lack of adequate exercise or maintaining an ideal BMI or any number of things or behaviors that people engage in that aren’t healthful. So….where do you propose to ‘draw the line’ on what’s “acceptable” and “healthy” so as to avoid higher insurance premiums’ cost as an employer? I think such a provision (of not hiring smokers) crosses that line and is not wise.

  • archie anderson

    Minnesota became the 29th state to protect smokers from political active employers. signed By Gov Carlson. To tamper with the personal lives of employees away from work is against Minnesota state law.

    The cost of tobacco to the state of Minnesota is verified and certified in atatute 16A.725 that puts the cost at 213 Million dollars using a study model that has a footnote that this model has an error factor of 40.3%

    It I s a Bald faced lie manufactured by the non profit public funded anti smoking regime that the cost is 2,87 Billion like we read in these un substantiated posts from the benifactors of the tobacco war.. For two decades Minnesotans have come to believee “THE BIG LIES”Repeal the job killing freedom stealing statewide smoking ban. De- fund non profit activism

  • Steve the Cynic

    And the tobacco companies are paragons of honesty and truth-telling?

  • Temil

    Say what you want about lying tobacco companies. It’s not like anyone hasn’t been told that smoking ain’t exactly healthy, I mean come on! Be as it may, tobacco is legal. Period. It’s not like Big Tobacco is the ONLY corporate entity to cook the books. I smoke. And it’s none of my employer’s beez-wax what I do on my own time!

  • Patrick

    Alchohol is poison also. No talk of banning that. Even the self-righteous Mayo big-wigs dare not speak out against alchohol.

    When large urban area dwellers cackle about second-hand smoke they really show their ignorance. Each day they inhale enough carbon monoxide from tailpipes and factories that dwarfs second-hand smoke, not to mention pesticides/herbicides oozing from their lawns and golf courses.

    It’s a witch hunt.