Jelly Beans and Ashtrays Oh My!

I want to share a funny story with you.  The other day, my son and I stopped at the corner quick stop for gas and a soda.  As we were standing at the checkout counter, with a puzzled look on his face, he reaches over and picks up a glass ashtray.  You know the ones….about the size of a coaster with the little half-moons on the side to rest the cigarette.  He asked what it was.  I looked at him and said, “Oh that’s for Easter candy.  You place your jelly bean in that little half-moon and then you launch it across the room at the dog with a flick of your finger.”  He thought that was pretty cool, and I saw the wheels turning in his head thinking of what else he could flick and at whom.  But then I got serious and said it was really an ashtray.  The look of ‘oh gross’ on his face was priceless, and he quickly put it back on the shelf.  He had just seen the photos of blackened smoker’s lungs in his health class the week before…yep, the same ones we saw during our grade school days.  So, why I’m talking about jelly beans?  It’s the perfect segue into talking about smoking don’t you think?

We’ve all seen/heard/read the ads (print, television, radio) about the health risks of smoking.  And we’ve seen states win big money from tobacco companies because of the ill effects of smoking.  No, I’m not on a campaign to get you to stop smoking…I’m just here to tell you that it could have an effect on your employment and your health insurance.

More and more employers are not hiring smokers.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation “from 1999 to 2005, the average employer cost for health insurance rose from $1.60 to $2.59 per employee per hour”.  This does not take into account the loss of productivity due to time away from work because of smoking.  In today’s economy, employers are looking at everything that ultimately affects their bottom line, and this includes hiring a smoker or not.  So, in this time of ever-tightening of belts, smaller profits, greater expenses, slow market growth, who do you think the employer is going to choose when it comes to hiring – the smoker or the non-smoker?  And if that wasn’t enough, let’s not forget that under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA or ACA), states are allowed to charge as much as 50% more for health insurance coverage for people who currently use tobacco products at least 4 times per week.  So, your wallet is feeling the squeeze from not only the labor market but your insurance carrier as well.

But, if you really feel the need to put a pinch between your lip and gum, or light up one of those filtered menthols, maybe you should move to Washington D.C.  Huh!?  In an article written by Allen Greenberg (April 16, 2013) it states, “The Washington, D.C., Health Benefit Exchange executive board has voted to prohibit health insurance companies from charging higher premiums to smokers and tobacco users.”   So there you go, a way to continue smoking and not be charged a higher price for your health insurance!

But moving isn’t really an option for you?  Don’t fret.  You will have help with kicking your tobacco habit.  A prerequisite under the ACA is that health insurance companies will be required to provide smoking cessation services at no cost to you.  And as an added bonus, when you do quit smoking, you will have a fancy jelly-bean launcher at your disposal the next time Easter comes around.  Hmmmm….it would work for candy corn at Halloween as well.

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