Tobacco use, and smoking in general, is becoming an expensive addiction. Not only is the price of the tobacco products pinching your wallet, you may have to dig deeper to pay for higher health insurance premiums as many businesses are now adding surcharges for employees who use tobacco. Health care costs are increasing and employers are trying to save money wherever they can.
This trend is not new. Five years ago USA Today reported businesses were already using financial incentives or penalties in their health care plans aimed at smokers. At that time the companies adding surcharges were mostly self-insured and employees shared in the insurance premium costs. Now, most employers have passed on part of the insurance costs to their employees, and added a surcharge for tobacco use on top of higher premiums.
Employees of Palm Beach County School District have until August 1 to sign a “tobacco affidavit” stating whether they use tobacco products or not. If they still use tobacco or do not sign an affidavit, they will start paying a surcharge of at least $50 per month starting January 1. Premium increases for all employees are still being negotiated and the surcharge may be higher than $50. Medical costs for tobacco users are higher and the district is working to keep costs down and use the surcharge as an incentive to quit.
Another school district in Florida takes tobacco use one step further. Escambia County, Florida board of education voted to adopt a tobacco free policy for all new employees starting October 1, 2011. New hires will be tested for nicotine and must certify they don’t smoke or chew tobacco. Current employees and tenured teachers will not be affected by the new policy and will be “grandfathered” in.
Paying extra for unhealthy lifestyle choices isn’t the wave of the future. The ripple started a long time ago. You are already paying big tobacco to make you sick every time you buy their products. Now you will have to pay extra for your health. You have so much to gain from quitting.