University in Alabama to Penalize Workers Who Smoke

August 16, 2010 ( – University of Southern Alabama employees who smoke will pay more for health care benefits starting next year.

The University newspaper, The Vanguard, reports that 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. Wayne Davis, chair of the Fringe Benefits Committee and vice president for Financial Affairs said this increase is a way to keep costs down for the entire system, because national statistics show that health care for smokers tends to cost more than for non-smokers.  

“If we can stop someone from smoking, it saves money for the group,” Davis said, according to the newspaper. “Non-smokers end up picking up the tab for smokers’ health care.”  

However, the Fringe Benefits Committee is not considering raising the premiums for overweight people, those who use alcohol to excess, or any other people that may have increased health costs.  

Jim Connors, chair of the Faculty Senate and assistant professor of Earth Sciences, told the newspaper: “It’s obviously a good thing when people don’t use tobacco products, [b]ut I do hate to see any intrusion on personal liberty.”  

The University joins a growing list of public and private employers penalizing workers who smoke (see FL County Targets Smokers, Unhealthy Workers in Health Plan).