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Getting Clever in California

Getting Clever in California

What is it going to take to get California residents to quit smoking?

That's what many businesses in the state are wondering as they try to get their employees to kick the habit. If it were up to them, California businesses would be following the example of Howard Weyers, the owner of a health care benefits administrator in Lansing, MI. Weyers gave his employees an ultimatum when it came to smoking: Quit in 15 months or you’re fired. He also refused to hire smokers. Eventually he broadened his smoking ban to include his workers’ spouses.

Unfortunately, California can't follow Weyers' lead because state law bans employers from hiring or firing smokers. However, the state has been among the frontrunners when it comes to quitting smoking efforts. It has banned smoking in most public places, and in January, a law went into effect that prohibits smokers from smoking in a car if there’s a child passenger present.

California businesses want their employees to quit smoking because it costs companies an estimated $8.6 billion in direct medical costs and $7.3 billion in lost productivity a year, according to the California division of the American Cancer Society.

One idea being tossed around is a 20% increase in funding for smoking cessation programs aimed toward employees. Another idea is to have a smoking cessation program offered as an employee benefit, but since people change jobs so often their health benefits would change as well.

Let's help out California. What can companies do out there to get their employees to quit smoking? What's worked for you? [San Francisco Chronicle]

Posted: 6/18/08