Smokers cost employers more

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KIMT NEWS 3 —  As the cost of smoking continues to rise so does the cost of employing a smoker.

Steve Kneeskern enjoys smoking every once in awhile.

“I smoke cigars when I fish.”

Kneeskern worked for Hormel for 30 years. He is retired now and his health insurance is still provided by the company. It does not him cost more than non-smokers yet.

“There had been some talk from time to time and nothing really since,” Kneeskern said.

Those who smoke regularly and are still working are getting expensive. In fact, those workers cost employers nearly $6,000 more a year than non smokers.

Researchers at Ohio State University came up with the number after conducting a study that included health insurance cost, productivity loss calculated sick days and smoke breaks.

“A lot of our employers allow smoking during work hours but it has to be on breaks and it has to be in designated areas,” said Laura Lunde of Manpower in Albert Lea.

More businesses are enforcing that requirement because the numbers really add up.

Smokers who take an eight minute break just to smoke cost employers more than $1,500 a year. If it ends up being two 15-minute breaks, employers lose more than $3,000 dollars a year.

“Smoke breaks can have an influence on productivity that’s happening in the workplace. So when someone is taking multiple smoke breaks during the day, someone else is then covering for that person,” Lunde said.

The biggest cost to employers is health insurance. Smokers tend to have higher rates of lung disease, heart disease, and cancer to name a few.

The study says those illnesses can cost businesses more than $2,000 a year.

“If they’re not able to be at work every day of the week because of whatever illness is occurring, that can affect others as well,” Lunde said.

Many companies offer support to quit, but for workers like Kneeskern, they will not need it if prices go up.

“If they raised it five dollars more for a box of cigars I’d probably quit,” Kneeskern said.

Minnesota is one of 29 states that has laws specifically barring companies from banning or disciplining smokers, although they can charge higher health care premiums. Iowa does not have those laws.

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