Health care surcharge for smokers leads to decreased smoking in the workplace, SHRM survey finds

Forty-five percent of employers who have health care surcharges in place for smokers say employee smoking in the workplace decreased since the policy was implemented, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey. Approximately one-fifth of survey respondents (18 percent) impose smoking surcharges, which result in higher health care premiums for smokers. In addition, about one-half of respondents (54 percent) are providing smokers with wellness information on the benefits of a smoke-free lifestyle.

“Employers are taking a stance on smoking evidenced by smoking surcharges as well as banning smoking on company premises,” said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM. “While it is difficult to determine if these measures are having an impact in reducing smoking during nonwork hours, it may be an impetus for employees to rethink their smoking behaviors overall.”

According to the survey results, more than four-fifths of HR professionals (85 percent) indicated that their organizations had a formal, written smoking policy in place, and just over one-half of respondents (53 percent) indicated that their companies permitted smoking in the workplace.

“Slightly more than half of HR professionals stated that disciplinary actions were taken against employees who violated organization smoking policies,” Esen explained. “Therefore, employees have a strong incentive to quit smoking or reduce smoking to only nonwork hours.”

Of companies that disciplined employees, two-thirds (66 percent) indicated that their organizations gave a verbal warning for first-time smoking policy offenses, while 13 percent gave a written warning.

However, smoking traditional cigarettes on company property is not the only reason an employee might get reprimanded. More than two out of five organizations (44 percent) now include electronic cigarettes and other vaporizers in their organizations’ smoking policies. Two percent have a separate policy for vaping.

Over one-half of respondents (54 percent) indicated their organizations did not have a vaping policy, yet onethird (33 percent) said their organizations had plans to implement one within a year.

Of those organizations that said they had a smoking policy, 58 percent stated there were designated smoking areas (inside and/or outside common areas). Thirty-one percent said their policy banned all smoking in the workplace (both inside and outside common areas), and 1 percent said their policy allowed individuals to smoke inside personal vehicles.


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