This month Knowledge @ Wharton published an article about how some companies will not hire applicants who smoke cigarettes. One such employer, Beebe Medical Center in Southern Delaware, will begin testing job applicants for nicotine use along with their other standard drug tests. Wharton health care management professor Kevin Volpp believes that over time this practice will lead to lower health insurance cost for employers. He believes this type of hiring practice will not affect overall tobacco use unless a significant number of employers adopt this policy.
Wharton management professor Adam Cobb points out that many employees who smoke already feel like “outsiders” as over the last twenty years they have moved out of their offices to indulge in their smoking habit. Further he says that many employers charge overweight employees or those that smoke a higher insurance premium.
I believe it is these types of financial disincentives that will motivate employees to change unhealthful habits. These habits are in their control and when controlled can improve their overall health. With the significant health care reform that has taken place and will continue over the next couple of years, I believe it is totally appropriate that employers do everything in their power to improve the company’s loss ratios and control their health costs. Additionally improved employee health reduces absenteeism and improves job efficiency.
There is no question that smoking cigarettes can lead to heart disease, cancer, and a shortening of the smoker’s life. My family has been profoundly impacted by the ravages of cancer and how this deadly disease can devastate a young person’s life. I believe it is critical for both employers and employees to make any and all positive changes to reduce the threat of cancer and spare the individual and their families from this heartbreaking disease.