Should You Offer Smoking Cessation Benefits?

When they were first created, electronic cigarettes were promoted as an easy, healthy way to eventually quit smoking. Last year, however, an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths linked to the smoking devices had caused both officials and employers to take a closer look, not only banning traditional cigarettes but also vaping products and devices from the workplace and public areas.

HR Dive’s Ryan Golden reports that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have said that some of the Vitamin E acetate, which is used as an added preservative to many vaping liquids, also contains THC, which is the active ingredient in marijuana.  As a result, several states have either restricted or banned the sale of the devices, and some employers have already banned their use on company property.  Under the rules set out by the Affordable Care Act, some companies have already considered charging higher rates or a “tobacco use surcharge” for those workers and their dependents that use tobacco.  Industry experts believe this latest outbreak of lung injuries may lead to offering similar incentives to workers to give up vaping products as well.

For instance, Carrot announced their Pivot program earlier this month. It is designed to help workers give up vaporized nicotine products like e-cigarettes. Pivot is already being offered to some employers through the health plans that they provide to workers and it includes an app that is designed to provide information for workers about vaping and give them the motivation to quit.

U-Haul recently announced that it would reject all job applicants who use nicotine products. Amanda Graham, chief of innovations with the Truth Initiative which is in partnership with the smoking cessation company, ExProgram, and the Mayo Clinic, says that U-Haul’s decision is unfortunate. “Users often struggle for many reasons to be employed, to begin with. It really exacerbates what we see as a disparity to be tobacco users and nonusers,” Graham said.

The better answer, according to Graham and other experts interviewed by HR Dive, is to help workers to motivate workers toward a tobacco-free life rather than to penalize them and further worsen company turnover rates.