Employer Gives $500 Bonus To Workers Who Quit Smoking

While many employers are refusing to hire smokers, one employer takes a softer approach.

Alice Ellinor/Flickr
As medical costs have soared, some employers have tried various approaches to get smokers to quit. Some have instituted wellness programs that offer support and advice on how to quit; others have made smokers pay higher health premiums. And increasingly, some employers are banning the hiring of smokers altogether.

But a Bakers, Calif. employer came up with what might be the best incentive yet: Econo Air, an air conditioning sales store, offers a $500 bonus to any employee who quits smoking for at least three months, as was first reported by the local ABC news outlet.

In speaking to ABC 23, Gary Flanagan, the president of the company, said he came up with the plan after seeing close friends and family members die from smoking-related illnesses. "I lost a few family members [from smoking] and a short time ago, my best friend," he said.

He added that he is losing money from the program.

Econo Air worker Daniel Frye quit smoking after having smoked for years. "My stamina has increased twice, and it's awesome," he said."What I do is very hot, very strenuous. We find ourselves in some extreme conditions. It's a lot easier to breathe" as a result of quitting.

A recent study found that offering cash incentives can be a very effective motivator, at least when it comes to slimming down. Researchers at Cornell University and University of Texas at Arlington examined four different company weight-loss programs and concluded that "employees who received some sort of financial incentive, either by being paid directly or through a refundable bond program, experienced more weight loss than in the control group who weren't given any extra cash for their weight loss efforts."

Is it worth to offer cash to quit? There's plenty of evidence that workers who smoke incur higher medical bills. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), an employee who smokes costs his or her employer an average of $3,400 a year in extra costs. As a result, 19 percent of 248 major U.S. employers made their workers who smoked pay more toward their health care costs, as The New York Times reported.

But are employers' anti-smoking policies infringing on workers rights? The debate remains open; twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have passed smoker-protection laws, but 21 states have no laws against employers' banning the hiring of smokers, as USA Today reported last year. In 1997, roughly one in four Americans were smokers, but as of last year, the number was closer to one in five, as the CDC reported.


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As a person who NEVER smoked.. I want to know how I can get a $500 bonus!! They're being REWARDED for smoking all their lives!! I think I should get a reward for NEVER smoking and taking care of myself!! It's not right!!!! Not only do the smokers get MORE breaks than non-smokers, NOW they get more money!!! Do I really need to start smoking, so I can get a $500 for quiting?!!!

August 21 2013 at 5:08 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Denileriverafter's comment
Amy Modig

You get the bonus of not being charged higher premiums and having unquestioned access to jobs. Plus you have strong, clear lungs. Me, I had to stop smoking so I could climb stairs and no one paid me either. But I am thinking of how I can get my employer to do this, so we can help our younger people to quit! Quitting does save lives! Good luck in getting the recognition you richly deserve!

August 22 2013 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

any body that takes a day off for breeding shall be fired,, and no non smokers are allowed on my properties You all can snuff out with my opion stupid over kill crap you non smokers have become set a foot on my property and will defend my folks and there are alot of them if its a big war you want!!! you gonna loose
you already have be responsible for you mistake! I want most of you folks neutered bigger problem!!!

August 21 2013 at 12:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mike04759's comment


August 21 2013 at 5:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely stupid idea. You reward the people who are doing wrong and those who are doing what is right get nothing? If I worked at this place, I would pack up and walk out. Whose dumb idea was that? DUH!

August 20 2013 at 11:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm all about hiring only non smokers. I am also almost ok with higher premiums, but I feel premiums should be based on actual use and absenteeism, not arbitrary. There are those who use the health care system who are deemed perfectly normal per weight and non smoking significantly more than anyone else and there are those who are alleged to be taxing the system solely based on arbitrary assumptions who never use it. I think if you are going to increase anyone's premiums, increase based on use, not assumptions. But it does bother me that those who never smoke don't get any kind of bonus. Seems a little unfair to once again reward someone for poor behavior.

August 20 2013 at 10:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If smokers cost companies $3400 per year in added costs, maybe the $500 should go to nonsmokers and smokers can then earn the reward for good health only after they have quit for 6mo or a year. Instead of bribing smokers to quit, it may be more useful to show that there are rewards for being healthy. Companies should view nonsmokers as saving the company $3400 per year and therefore the $500 could be deemed a sort of profit sharing. If one employee consistently earns more profit for the company than another employee, that employee would expect to be compensated accordingly; this is no different. Likewise, employees that exercise regularly should also be compensated.

August 20 2013 at 9:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i wouldn't hire a smoker to begin with and fire the ones i caught smoking

August 20 2013 at 8:28 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to janka51's comment
Linda K

I quit smoking years ago, but I know a lot of smokers who work much harder than their non-smoking peers. I see it every day in my rounds to the different agencies.

August 20 2013 at 10:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Linda K's comment

It isn't about "working harder" Smoking impacts everyone besides the smokers. The smoke causes second hand problems to the rest of us. Smokers stink, literally. And smoking does impact the quality of the voice. And it does impact their respiratory system, especially the ones who have asthma and continue to smoke and are chronically absent.

August 20 2013 at 10:22 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down

I agree with you.

August 20 2013 at 10:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wow... talk about a modern day "Slavery" mentality... Do what we want, and we will reward you... Why not reformed Alcoholics? Drug Abusers? Gamblers? Reformed Porn Addicts? A discriminatory practice that will bite you in the end, as these reformed persons bring in to question why they arent entitled to a bonus for stopping a socially unacceptable issue...

August 20 2013 at 5:00 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

I'd want twice that for never starting.

August 20 2013 at 3:55 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I work for Sanders Ford in Jacksonville, NC as a Sales Rep. The owners of my dealership also give out $500.00 to those who quit smoking for 6 months. The catch, which should be, is that, if you are seen or caught smoking after the six months, you'll be paying it back. Fair enough.

August 20 2013 at 3:34 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Seems unfair to those who've never smoked, where is their reward.

August 20 2013 at 12:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rostra's comment
Cindy Madden

Well, there are many things that "aren't fair". The article also mentioned incentives for people losing weight. Where's your outrage concerning THIS? LOL. Wow. You seem to have left that out completely.

August 20 2013 at 2:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Cindy Madden's comment

The incentive where I once worked at regarding losing weight, were stupid contest. What office team lost the most weight. Gift certificates were given.

August 20 2013 at 3:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

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