Each smoker costs an employer about $3,400 annually in higher health care bills..

January 3, 2010 - South Florida businesses and nonprofits are pushing their employees to stop smoking and lead healthier lives with the goal of controlling ballooning health care costs and increasing productivity.

Palm Beach County's MorseLife is the latest organization to join the trend, offering Weight Watchers, yoga classes to reduce stress and a new midweek green market, where employees are encouraged to shop for the ingredients to make a healthful dinner instead of hitting the drive-through. But along with the carrot is a big stick: Starting in January, employees will be prohibited from smoking on campus.
At Hedrick Brothers Construction in West Palm Beach, employees who smoke or are considered obese, based on their body mass index, pay more for insurance.

At MorseLife, the goal is creating "a culture of wellness on campus," said Mary Alice Pappas, senior vice president of MorseLife Foundation. "We want the responsibility of providing leadership and encouraging others to follow suit." The nonprofit organization's desire to stop employees from smoking and improve their health isn't entirely selfless. Pappas hopes the spiraling health care costs will begin to moderate or even drop. "We are running a business, and it is our responsibility to do everything we can to reduce expenses," she said. MorseLife is getting some help striking the right balance through a partnership with Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation's first organizations to push a comprehensive wellness program.

Health care organizations around the country have taken the lead among employers in banning smoking in the workplace. In Palm Beach County, in 2007, Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center became the first hospital to ban smoking everywhere on its campus. St. Mary's Medical Center followed suit. It also screens applicants for nicotine and rejects candidates who are smokers. Delray Medical Center is slated to join the county's other smoke-free hospitals in 2011.

A focus on health has become so entrenched at Cleveland Clinic that employees who agree to stop smoking, lose weight or follow other doctors' orders to stave off or reverse illnesses such as diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma or obesity, receive rebates to cover any increases in health insurance premiums. At this year's open enrollment, that was a 17 percent increase.

Cleveland Clinic started by banning smoking on campus but expanded its anti-smoking stance to its hiring protocol. Anyone offered a job is tested to see if they smoke. If a nicotine metabolite is detected, their job offer is rescinded.

Reference: South Florida workplaces push smoking bans to cut insurance costs Each smoker costs an employer about $3,400 annually in higher health care bills by Laura Green Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel.com, 12/28/2010.

Some related news briefs:
Massachusetts - Anna Jaques Hospital jobs - if nicotine test is positive do not apply..;
Massachusetts Hospital Association - as of January 1, 2011 will no longer hire users of tobacco products..;
University of South Alabama - tobacco users will pay more for health insurance starting January 1, 2011..;
Hospital in Georgia will no longer hirer new employees that use tobacco..;
Breckland District , Norfolk County, England - smokers to work extra to make up time on smoke breaks..;
OHIO - Employees of health care insurance company will pay a surcharge of $525 for tobacco use health benefits..;
US Congress - Employers may reward employees for healthy behaviors..;
If You Use Tobacco Products Its Going to Cost You More..;