Company’s no-smoking rule goes too far

Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has been hovering through headlines the past two years because of health care policies that indicate human resources will start firing smokers.An article in the “Billings Gazette” from December 2005 called out the new nonsmoking regulation, but that was just the beginning of a series of new regulations the company is taking to lower health care costs by keeping employees in a fit state.

More recently, a “BusinessWeek” cover story gave an inside look at where these policies have saved lives, as well as ended careers for members of Scotts Miracle-Gro. One executive, Joe Pellegrini was a triathlete who had an indulgent lifestyle devouring high-fat, high-protein foods. The company’s health care intervention for his eating habits ended up saving his life when doctors discovered a 95-percent blockage in Pellegrini’s heart. Meanwhile, a 30-year-old lawn-care worker, Scott Rodrigues was fired for being a smoker roughly two weeks after he was hired. He violated the tobacco-free policy so his termination was just, but a larger question gets raised by this firing.

How many companies will begin throwing the book at employees who are at risk toward corporate health plans?

A healthier America would be a wonderful goal, but with a growing demand for instantaneous service, fast food lifestyles and glorified professional eaters such as Takeru Kobayashi (the hotdog eating champion from Japan) are becoming part and parcel of modern society.

Perhaps raising the price for health insurance co-payments and premiums will help change the habits of these workers. If raising the price does not work, firing very well could be the best alternative. As a whole, people need to examine their personal lifestyle choices and embrace the gifts companies give such as dental plans and health insurance instead of squandering these benefits with reckless abandon.

Competing in a company picnic pie-eating contest is one thing, challenging the system with aggressive lifestyles is crossing the line.

Sports editor Marcus Murphree for the editorial board.