Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Winston-Salem smoking rules fume some

Here's a change that's got some Winston-Salem smokers fuming: The city is instituting a new policy to save money by raising health-insurance premiums for municipal employees who use tobacco products.

Starting in January, health-insurance premiums will go up by an undetermined amount for Winston-Salem employees unless they take a test to prove they are tobacco-free, defined as having no nicotine in their body, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.

Also, for the first time, people who smoke or use other tobacco products will be eligible only for the city's basic health-coverage plan. They will not qualify for the city's Basic Plus health plan, in which the city covers more costs.

The city banned employees from smoking in city buildings two years ago, and some people said they thought the continued restrictions were unfair to smokers. The city has offered smoking cessation classes to workers but some say even that doesn't work. Jeff Goins, a technician in the city's parts department, has smoked for years, although he's tried to quit several times. He took the first round of classes. "It's a waste of time. I know I have a problem," he said. "I have to go with their policy, but I don't think it's a fair decision."

Martha Wheelock, an assistant city manager, said that health-care costs are still being analyzed and the exact amount of the premium increase is not yet clear, although a preliminary figure of $20 per month was given in the city's proposed 2010-11 budget. "We as a city have talked about smoking in particular for a number of years, at least internally, and I think we're ultra-sensitive to the topic given where we live and the roots of our city,'' she said.

Those roots? Winston-Salem is home for the corporate headquarters of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, and was once nicknamed "Camel City" for the Camel cigarettes manufactured there.
Is Charlotte next with such restrictions? According to the Journal, of North Carolina's major cities, Winston-Salem is the only one adopting such a change, but Charlotte is considering restricting smokers to a higher-deductible plan next year. For more on this story, go to http://www2.journalnow.com/content/2010/jun/15/paying-more-to-use-tobacco-city-raising-smokers-pr/news-local/


Anonymous said...
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YoungLady said...

Chalotte Mecklenburg School is doing the same thing with smokers. Next year it is people who are over weight. I smell a law suite.

Anonymous said...
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佩芳 said...

How about the sorted out products..................................................