University of South Alabama - tobacco users will pay more for health insurance starting January 1, 2011..

August 16, 2010 - On January 1, 2011, University South Alabama’s (USA) new smoking cessation policy goes into effect. The policy will raise health premiums $25 per month for any employees that are regular tobacco users.

Employees who do not sign a form certifying that they have not used tobacco in any form in the last six months will be subject to a $25 per month increase in their health premiums, according to Wayne Davis, chair of the Fringe Benefits Committee and vice president for Financial Affairs.

A policy of that nature has been needed for some time now. Health care costs can be reduced drastically simply by not using tobacco, and policies like the newly introduced one at South could be good motivation for current tobacco users to quit.

In Alabama, 22.1 percent of adults (783,000 people) are smokers, and smoking-related diseases result in $96 billion in health care costs each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no reason for non-smokers to be forced to help foot a bill of that magnitude when the problem was self-inflicted. Smokers knowingly put their health at risk every time they light up, and every pack of cigarettes has the surgeon general’s warning on it to remind the user.

Aside from removing some of the financial burden from the back of the non-smokers, the policy is also good incentive for current smokers to quit. The new premium will equate to spending an extra $300 per year simply for being a smoker.

There are plenty of other things that money could be used for than extra insurance due to subjecting yourself to bodily harm. Even more money would be saved than the $300 premium if a smoker under the new premium were to quit. Not buying that pack of cigarettes for a price of around $6 every day would save over $2,000 every year (and you could take that nice vacation you’ve been dreaming of for years).

References: Counterpoint: Should Employees be Charged Higher Premiums for Tobacco Use? Non-users Shouldn’t Foot User Hospital Bills by Cameron Adkins, The Vanguard - University of South Alabama 8/16/2010; Tobacco Use to be Penalized by Matthew Peterson MANAGING EDITOR, The Vanguard - University of South Alabama, 8/16/2010.