– A Company’s Threat: Quit Smoking or Leave – A Company’s Threat: Quit Smoking or Leave

Get this story while you can!

Yes, here we go–while many are worried that the Bush Administration is slowly (or perhaps, quickly) eroding our civil liberties, the various liberal “health advocates” are working hard to eliminate civil liberties where it matters most–at work, and at home! In fact, this story was so bizarre I had to check the date to make sure I wasn’t reading a left-over from April 1st!

According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, from Dec 20th, 2005, “Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. is taking its campaign to stamp out smoking among its workers to an unusual length: It’s threatening to fire smokers beginning next fall.” Yes, you read it right–if you smoke, you will be fired. Of course, many places have a “no smoking” policy, this policy goes further. If you smoke, you will lose your job. Not just if you smoke at work–but if you smoke at all. So, if you smoke at home… in your car… on vacation… it doesn’t matter.

Later in the article, we find “Next October, the Marysville, Ohio, company said it will begin randomly testing about 20% of its work force nationwide where it is legal to do so. (Ohio is among the states that don’t have specific smoker-protection laws.) The company says it hasn’t worked out the details of how to test employees. Workers found to be still smoking or using other tobacco products habitually could be fired, Scotts says, as long as they work in states where such termination is legal.” This is, of course, similar to the various drug testing policies in place both for government and civilian sector employees. What makes this step unique is the reason.

While drug testing is often defended as protection of the workers, and those around them, because “drugs” tend to alter behavior, this goes a step further. The companies are now attempting to force a change in your behavior specifically to lower the long term costs of their health care programs. Yes, that’s right. They will force you to be heathy.

So how far does this go? We have already heard from the fringes when it comes to second hand smoke–and that argument has now become mainstream. We have seen the (2nd rate–unscientific to boot!) movie “Super Size Me” become mandatory viewing in secondary education. There have even been those on the fringe that wish to tax fatty foods, since ultimately they can have a negative impact on health.

So let’s see how far this can go. The article continues:
“The tobacco initiative is part of a broad wellness program that includes a $5 million fitness gym and health clinic opened last month near the company’s headquarters. Employees on the company’s medical plan will have free access in the clinic to a physician, nurse practitioners, diet and fitness experts and a pharmacy with generic drugs.”

This sounds harmless enough. In fact, it shows that the company is willing to help those who have an interest in staying healthy. Nothing wrong here–and this should be applauded as forward thinking. But wait! There’s MORE!

“In return, every year employees will face a strict requirement: Take a health assessment through a program affiliated with medical-information Web site WebMD Health Corp. — or pay $40 extra a month in health-care costs. The health assessment starts with a form to be filled out online. Then, a “health coach” contacts the employee and arranges a treatment regimen for any health issues. The employee must follow through with the recommendations or pay higher premiums, though the exact amount hasn’t been worked out yet.”

So, there is a second edge to this sword. If you refuse to take an active interest in your health, they will charge you more for insurance. All in all, that seems fair–if you won’t take care of yourself, you should at least pay the consequences, as the costs.

Unfortunately, as noted, the whole premise of this story is that this company, and others, are actually going that next step. If you don’t fit their definition of healthy, then you cannot work for them any more. Whether it impairs your ability to work, or not.

As one woman said in the article: “‘The consensus is like, is this the end or is it going to lead to something else?’ she says. ‘Are they going to watch what we eat?'”


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