To help cut skyrocketing medical costs, companies nationwide are creating smoking bans so tough that smokers need to go all the way off...

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To help cut skyrocketing medical costs, companies nationwide are creating smoking bans so tough that smokers need to go all the way off company property for a puff.

Some companies are banning all tobacco use on every square inch of corporate property — from the parking lots to the doorways where smokers routinely huddle.

Military insurer USAA is the latest to enact such a ban, including cigarettes and chewing tobacco, on its 500-acre Phoenix campus.

Hardware retailer Lowe’s, BF Goodrich Tires and many hospitals have adopted similar bans.

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For most smokers, the zero-tolerance policy will mean giving up tobacco or quitting the job.

Companies say they want workers healthier and more productive. But the clear aim of the smoking bans is to get workers to quit and help drive down health-care costs.

The American Cancer Society reports that anticipated medical costs drop by $47 in the first year a smoker quits and fall by $853 more in the next seven years.

Not all companies are getting tougher. Southwest Airlines’ corporate leaders smoke. Its operations have several “smoking rooms” on each floor and a smoking section in the cafeteria.

The bans are expected to gain a greater following as more companies look at tobacco-use statistics. Businesses pay about $2,189 in workers’ compensation costs for smokers compared with $176 for nonsmokers, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine in 2001.

Health problems mean more lost workdays. Smokers miss 6.16 days a year compared with 3.86 days by nonsmokers, the medical journal Tobacco Control said in 2001.