Tee break?

All across America workers are taking smoke breaks, is that fair?


Coasting down Glenway, one passes many restaurants and businesses, and more often and not, there’s an employee, or even multiple employees toking a cig. I always ask myself, “Shouldn’t that kid be working right now?” Which only begs the question, should those smoking employees get the same benefits as nonsmoking employees?

A business’ main objective is obviously to turn a profit. In order to make the most profit, employees must be as efficient as possible. In general, employees that smoke are less productive. A smoker takes multiple breaks throughout their work day and often times leaves tasks incomplete or delayed. Four to five smoke breaks a day can quickly add up. Experts say it adds up to an hour on a work day. That hour a day can end up being crucial to any business.

“I think over a significant sampling the productivity would be slightly less initially,” said Douglas Guenther, Elder’s business manager. “But I would expect that over a long period of time the health issues related to smoking would reduce productivity to a great extent.”

Not only does it lose productivity, those workers are also “on the clock”. During these “on the clock” breaks the business is essentially paying the employees to feed their addictions with no output of work. But then again, it would be up to each business if those employees receive extra breaks to puff away.  Many believe each worker should get the same amount of breaks, which again – loss of productivity.

Another question that is raised with employees that smoke is health insurance. Obviously the risks of smoking involving health are a factor in the situation. Though it is not legally required, many businesses do offer health insurance for their employees. Businesses offer these health plans in order to help their employees stay healthy as possible to keep them working and productive. Smoking kills this line of thought. It has come to the point where some employees may have to pay an additional fee if they are tobacco users. Employees of Pennsylvania State University are now required to pay an additional $75 to their health insurance as an incentive to quit smoking and be healthier.

Others don’t feel the same way.

“No [employees shouldn’t pay a higher health premium for smoking], because it is still a legal activity,” Guenther said. “Charging higher rates for smokers is a slippery slope which could conceivably move on to involve other activities, like drinking, eating habits, even a person’s genetic makeup. Insurance is based on likely statistical outcomes of a large group. If we start pulling out all the “riskier individuals” where does it lead us?”

He has a point.

Some businesses require tobacco screening before hiring employees. Other businesses don’t care if their employees take a tee break every once in a while. But either way, those businesses can’t deny their main goal is to obtain profit. Who really knows how much profit is lost by those smokers every year, and there is no proof that those smokers don’t make up that work after their break. There are studies that support each side of the arguments, it is all speculation. Those employees could make a case of intrusion when it comes to having to pay an extra fee for health premiums. There should never be any discrimination towards smokers and nonsmokers; every person deserves an equal chance in this great country of ours. And a person shouldn’t have to change their lifestyle because of their work, but on the other side, a business shouldn’t have to suffer because of a worker’s lifestyle.

Mr. Guenther’s thoughts are his own opinion and not the beliefs of the administration at Elder High School