Saliva test forces smokers to pay more for health insurance

Want to make your employees smoking mad? Tell them they have to prove they don’t smoke.

Surprisingly, sucking on a burning clump of dried vegetable matter and inhaling the smoke deep into sensitive lung tissue is bad for human health.

Surprisingly, sucking on a burning clump of dried vegetable matter and inhaling the smoke deep into sensitive lung tissue is bad for human health.

In Arizona, some Maricopa County employees have to submit to saliva tests that test for nicotine, according to an article in the Arizona Republic. If they don’t, they pay an extra $480-a-year health insurance premium.

The test is seen as a way to cut health-care costs, which, as you probably know, have skyrocketed in recent years.

Smoking, as anyone who has read the side of a cigarette package, is bad for you. “Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy,” says one label, which seems pretty straight-forward. The Centers for Disease Control says smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and smokers die an average of 13 years sooner.

Some Georgia hospitals, including those in Gwinnett and DeKalb, won’t hire smokers. Job applicants have to pass a blood test for nicotine. With rising healthcare costs, that may become a trend. Georgia, unlike some states, does not have a law prohibiting discrimination against smokers.

According to the Arizona Republic article, the county made the test mandatory because an statistically unbelievable number of employees claimed to be non-smokers. Despite the warning labels, the percentage of smokers has stabilized in recent years at about 20 percent.

In the article, one disgruntled employee says ”it goes against our personal liberties. Whether you smoke or not should be between you and your doctor, not you and your boss.”

She’s wrong. Because she chooses to smoke, her co-workers have been paying more for health insurance.

How much more?

Here’s some facts from the Centers for Disease Control:

* Cigarette smoking costs more than $193 billion (i.e., $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures) per year.

* Secondhand smoke costs more than $10 billion (i.e., health care expenditures, morbidity, and mortality) per year.

58 comments Add your comment


March 18th, 2011
5:24 pm

This would be reasonable if people were required to pay a fee for being overweight, for eating Mcdonald’s more than twice a year, for having random unprotected sex, for getting stressed out and developing hypertension, etc. That way, nobody subsidizes anyone else’s bad habits.


March 18th, 2011
6:48 pm

If they are going to put this kind of a requirement on smokers, then they need to do a complete physical exam on all employees. How about the people who have elevated sugar levels, or high levels of salt, or have had heart problems, women who may be pregnant, people who have had emotional problems or those who are overweight, etc.
I do not smoke, but this is just discrimination against smokers!

Patrick M Scott

March 18th, 2011
10:58 pm

Fortunately, my employer, a municipal government that I have worked for, hasn’t done this yet, but it is only a matter of time. I am 52, started smoking at age 12, and quit at 42. Charging Smokers extra may SEEM like a good idea, but it is a dangerous precedent. Next will come people who are overweight (I’m about 35 lbs. overweight myself), then what about people who engage in what are perceived in dangeous activities. I ride motorcycles and skydive. Both legal. Both my right. Neither nearly as dangerous as one might think, but wait and see. Once this starts, there will be no stopping it. If you think this will just affect smokers, you are naive. It will grow to include everyone, for some reason or another, eventually.


March 19th, 2011
12:00 am

Does anyone believe it’ll stop with the saliva test for nicotine? That is the first step down the slippery slope of yet another invasion of privacy. Next we’ll have saliva tests for alcohol, high saturated fat foods, STDs, anything that happens to be out of fashion or politically incorrect at the moment.


March 23rd, 2011
1:39 pm

I don’t smoke, but my opinion is that anybody who thinks this is a good idea is a fool. It will, as many have said, create a precedent to label everyone high risk eventually. People get off on this sort of thing because it makes them feel like they are better than others, but in reality, like with so many social issues, siding with the man against your peers–even smoky-smelling ones or fat ones and so on–is being a sucker and a punk, and it will come back to bite you. Nobody is going to get a break on insurance for being spineless and/or heartless, and I’d sure rather be around smokers than suck-up rats and sheep who live to be controlled and pushed around by the big wheels who see them precisely for what they are and use them as such. How about a punk/weasel tax for bootlickers and employees who enjoy bending over not only backwards but forwards: these practices seems unhealthy to me.


March 23rd, 2011
4:32 pm

I think they should surcharge people who play sports. They are much more likely to injure themselves than your average couch potato.


March 23rd, 2011
9:58 pm

I wonder of all the people that think this is a great idea if any of them are in perfect health? I will really enjoy hearing them cry when they have to pay more because they are fat

Learn the Facts

March 24th, 2011
7:25 am

I hate to dispel all the “smoking is costly to everyone” myths put out there by anti-smoking groups, but every longitudinal study ever done on lifetime medical costs show that smokers incur LOWER lifetime healthcare costs than people who don’t smoke. Why because they don’t live as long and don’t incur all of the highly expensive old age related medical costs. Without smokers dying off early, social security and medicare would already be bankrupt.

If you care about your countries financial well being, encourage others to smoke. It’s in your best interest.