Employers hoping to cut health care costs naturally look to reduce unhealthy behaviors, and perhaps none is more preventable than smoking. And few are more expensive — a smoker costs a company $12,000 more a year than a nonsmoker, with an annual medical pricetag of more than $95 billion. Add on another $97 billion a year in lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and it’s easy to see why CFOs and benefits managers would want to implement smoking-cessation programs and smoke-free policies.
However, many states, including Washington, D.C., have some kind of lifestyle protection or “smokers’ rights” law, and employers — particularly those that straddle state lines — should review their policies carefully or risk getting hit with a discrimination lawsuit. John Thurman, an employment attorney with New Jersey-based Farrell & Thurman, says to “support cessation programs and that type of thing” is always a good call, but leaders should try to keep those policies non-invasive.
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