Columbia Businesses Don't Plan To Change Smoking Policies

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COLUMBIA - Three Columbia insurance groups said Friday that they don't plan to stiffen their smoking policies for health insurance plans. This comes after some businesses nationwide recently added monthly surcharges to smokers' health insurance.

State Farm, Shelter Insurance and Columbia Insurance Group all said that whether or not an employee smokes has nothing to do with his/her job qualifications, but they all recommend living a healthy lifestyle. However, when the three companies hire workers they don't have any idea beforehand if the future employees are smokers.

Columbia Insurance Group offers incentives to employees who choose not to use tobacco products. Employees who don't use tobacco products get a three percent reduction in their insurance premiums. Columbia Insurance Group Vice President, Gina Boone, said "We've had employees who have to come in and renege on it, so we depend on the honor system."

State Farm provides counseling for employees who are hooked on tobacco. State Farm also offers two 90 day supplies of prescription medication and up to eight weeks of patches, lozenges and gum to help people kick the habit.

Shelter Insurance Vice President of Public Affairs, Joe Moseley, said, "We have no restrictions on our employees as far as their provided health insurance."