2011-06-23 P-D Letters: “Anti-smoking policies improve employee productivity, health”

The following is the original text of a letter submitted to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently and published today. Please click Anti-smoking policies improve employee productivity, health to view the edited on-line version published in the newspaper.

Ernie Wolf, recent photo from Facebook page

Date: Sat, 18 Jun 2011 21:13:56 -0500
To: letters@post-dispatch.com
From: Ernest Wolf
Subject: Smokers unwanted at work

The Post-Dispatch, in its June 17 article, makes it sound as if SSM hospitals are starting a new trend in our area.  Far from it. 
         This policy was pioneered by Sky-Top Sunroofs Ltd. in St. Louis over 30 years ago.  At first the P-D refused to accept help wanted ads for Sky-Top staff members with the admonition “non-smokers only should apply”.  It required the firm’s attorney to convince the paper that this selectivity is not a federal EEOC issue.  A search in the P-D Help Wanted columns of the early ’80s will confirm this fact. 
         This information was adequately publicized at the time, having been cited in local publications, during television interviews, and through discussions at employer association meetings. 
         Unfortunately, it seems few employers learned from Sky-Top’s experience.   This experience was even the basis of free employer consulting provided by the federally funded ASSIST (American Stop Smoking Intervention Study) program in the early ’90s. 
         Sky-Top’s experience included hard data which showed that in the unionized assembly operation with about 45 employees, the non-smokers were far more productive than the smokers.  With that data, plus the fact that the company-paid health and life insurance for employees was more expensive for smokers, our Teamster local agreed to hiring only non-smokers for the assembly operation after 1986 or 1987.  The savings could be used to provide more benefits as well as in-house smoking secession classes for smokers who desired to quit.  Sky-Top’s experience was well before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came out with the fact that each smoker costs a company an additional $3,400 annually in health care costs and lost productivity.
         It is never too late for employers to recognize that smoking policies can be mutually beneficial for both employees and employers.  Missouri has one of our country’s highest smoking rates.  A likely cause is that our State legislature has chosen not to pass an effective Clean Air act, allows the head tobacco lobbyist to smoke anywhere in the otherwise smoke-free State Capitol building, and persists in maintaining the lowest cigarette tax in the country at just 17 cents per pack while the overall States average is $1.45 per pack. 
         Effective employer policies could reverse that smoking rate and lead to a healthier state population.

Ernest Wolf
Founder, Sky-Top Sunroofs
St. Louis County

2 responses to “2011-06-23 P-D Letters: “Anti-smoking policies improve employee productivity, health”

  1. Who to believe. A company whose prejudice is clear or the chamber of commerce?

    It also ignores the fact that the most productive generation was the smoking generation and the fact that the greatest and most productive minds throughout history were smokers, Einstein, Eddison, Oppenheimer, Bell .etc etc etc. There is science to show why.
    http://dengulenegl.dk/English/Nicotine.html .

    Marshall P Keith .

    mogasp comment: Cause and effect?

  2. Tony Palazzolo

    I always laugh at the notion that smokers are less productive then non-smokers. The notion assumes that non-smokers never leave their workstation, never talk to coworkers and are 100% productive. I smoked cigarettes for 17 years and probably missed one or two days of work. Years after I quit and we had our first child I missed far more work. Kids bring home bugs from school and parents get them. I don’t see a outcry to not hire parents because they are less productive. I don’t see an outcry to not hire obese people because they are less productive.

    However, I still believe its the right of the owner to hire whom them please. Even more important, I as an individual wouldn’t consider working for a company that delved that deeply into my personal life.

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