Do you think employers should assist their workers in quitting cigarette smoking? Would you pay a higher premium for them to do so?

These two questions have already been answered by a plethora companies, as a significant portion of them, both large and small, offer this newly designed health benefit to their employees. The Washington Post reports, many of these companies have created a two-tier approach in assisting smokers wanting to quit.

The first level of assistance is to continually help employees quit smoking through programs, counseling methods and access to doctors and medications. The second part of this benefit includes higher insurance premiums for employees who still smoke, which serves as both a deterrent and financial punishment.

In a 2011 survey sponsored by health plans by human resources consultant Mercer, 24 percent of the companies with 20,000 employees or more, charged its employees higher premiums for continuing to smoke. In addition, 12 percent of the companies with 500 or more employees penalized smokers who weren’t able to be victorious over their nicotine habit.

Proponents for public health generally do not agree with this tough love approach, as many believe a strong focus should be applied to the chemical addiction, rather than the smoker choosing to quit. However, the employers view smoking simply as a dollars and cents issue.

With the costs of health care increasing, and the cost of medical treatment for smokers being even higher, companies are putting the cost responsibilities on those who are creating higher expenses.

Cigarette smoking is considered the most preventable cause of death, but the statistics suggest -that many smokers still aren’t getting the message. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 443,000 deaths are caused by cigarette smoke, and a shocking 269,655 of these deaths are among men.

Whether your employer chooses to provide assistance with cigarette quitting or not, the harsh repercussions of continued smoking should be incentive enough to stop. One can always speak to their doctor for more specific analysis and treatment, and do not have to wait for their employers to intervene.

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