Firms Help Workers Kick Butts

Seeking savings, employers offer programs, incentives
By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2007 10:40 AM CDT
Sasha Tsuros smokes outside of a coffee shop on a busy street in downtown Belmont, Calif., in this file photo on Monday, June 11, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Smoking, everybody's favorite target, is now drawing fire from employers looking to cut medical costs by helping workers kick the habit, the New York Times reports. Employers gain significantly when employees quit, because a typical smoker racks up $16,000 in additional lifetime medical costs and saps productivity with smoking breaks and absenteeism.

Smoking cessation joins weight management and diabetes control as areas where private employers have taken health care reform into their own hands. Spending $900 per individual nets most companies 15% to 35% in long-term success. Most firms offer free counseling, nicotine patches, and financial bonuses for quitting; some penalize smokers who don't join a cessation program $100 per month.