Pepsi Is Right to 'Punish' Employees for Smoking

cigarettePepsi Co. may not make a product that's part of a healthy lifestyle, but that doesn't mean they're okay with the people who work for them being unhealthy. Since February, the company has been charging workers in its bottling division who are smokers a $50 monthly fee on top of what they already pay for their company health insurance. The company began enforcing the penalty without really giving workers much warning, never telling the Teamsters union that covers many employees that they were "going to a different plan for employees."

While the way they went about putting the levy on their workers is certainly shady, I'm all for "sin fees" on smokers like this one. It's a smoker's decision to keep on smoking -- to not even try to quit. And hey, if they'd even make an attempt to quit, they wouldn't have to pay the penalty!


That's right -- the company will waive the fee if workers participate in a four- to six-week anti-smoking program -- whether they quit or not. So instead of griping about the fee, why not just sign up for the program? After all, if workers could successfully quit, they wouldn't only be saving themselves the $600 a year in penalties. They'd save the cost of the cigarettes themselves and tons of money in health care costs they'd be bound to incur if they kept up their nasty habit. (Clearly, I don't have much sympathy for people who smoke. My parents are both middle-aged smokers, and I talk to them about this kind of thing all the time.)

See, that's the thing. Smokers, by the nature of their habit, end up having higher health care costs linked to something they can absolutely control. (It's definitely not easy, but anyone who sets their mind to it can quit.) So it makes perfect sense to me why they should have to pay more on a group insurance plan. It stinks that the penalty just crept up on these Pepsi Co. workers, but maybe they should see it as a blessing in disguise. $600 is a nice chunk of change -- certainly enough to motivate them to clean up their dirty act.

Do you agree with smokers being charged a "sin penalty"?


Image via Fried Dough/Flickr

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