Tim Herman, CEO

Yesterday, I along with Kirk Smith, President and CEO of the Greater Flint Health Coalition met with local companies to discuss creating a smoke-free business environment. We focused on the importance of implementing a policy that covers not only the interior of a business, but the exterior grounds such as parking lots and cars -- and across all facilities or campuses.

As you know, the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce’s top priority is to drive economic development and diversification in Flint-Genesee County. We are focused on creating an environment where companies can be successful, and ultimately grow their businesses and create new jobs.

However, for many companies growth has been a challenge due in large part to rising health care costs for their employees. In fact, in some cases companies have gone out of business because of it.

For employers in Genesee County, particularly small businesses rising insurance premiums could mean there’s less money for new equipment and expansion. It can also mean fewer new jobs and higher premiums for workers, and as a result less consumer spending, which further impacts our local economy.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States each year, according to the Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention. Employees who smoke cost employers over $1,600 annually in medical expenses compared to non-smoking employees.

Employers can address these costs by implementing a campus-wide smoke-free policy, which studies have shown has a greater impact on smoking prevalence compared to policies that only impact the indoor space of an organization.

The Greater Flint Health Coalition offers a Smoke-free Toolkit that helps businesses implement a smoke-free campus policy easily and at low cost. Companies that are interested should contact the Health Coalition at gfhc@flint.org.

The bottom line is good health is good business. Employers can and should play an integral role in improving their employees’ health behaviors. This not only helps employees, but it can reduce a company’s healthcare costs and improve productivity.

If you are a business owner and you do not have a campus-wide smoke-free policy, I urge you to consider adopting one. If you are an employee of a company that does not have this type of comprehensive policy, I urge you to talk to your leadership about implementing a policy. This is too important to remain status quo.