Norman Company Offers Incentives For Workers To Quit Tobacco

Sunday, October 22nd 2006, 2:04 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ As a Norman food-distribution facility prepares to go tobacco-free, the company is offering financial incentives to its workers to quit using tobacco.

Sysco, Inc., which employs 340 workers at its plant in Norman, plans to prohibit tobacco use on its property in north Norman on Nov. 17. The company is offering a financial incentive to employees of $25 for each year they've worked for the company if the employee can remain tobacco-free for six months.

``It could add up to a pretty big amount,'' said Dave Martin, Sysco's director of human resources. ``Plus it's a way to be supportive.''

Employees who remain tobacco free for another six months could receive an additional bonus, he said. ``So far the response has been positive.''

The company also is providing information packets, smoking cessation programs and even company-supplied nicotine patches to employees seeking to quit using tobacco.

More than 400,000 deaths are the result of smoking-related illnesses, according to information from the U.S. Department of Heath.

The National Business Group on Health, a lobbying organization representing the country's large employers, estimates the direct medical costs associated with smoking at more than $75 billion per year in the United States; with an additional $80 billion per year lost in productivity due to sickness, disability and death.

``The number of smoking-related problems in Oklahoma is just staggering,'' Martin said. ``And, since we're in the food distribution business, well, being smoke free just reflects better on us as a company.''

Sysco employee Paul Poole, a supervisor in the company's warehouse who has smoked since he was 14, said he was pleased by the company's offer to help.

``I think it's a fantastic opportunity,'' he said. ``It's a chance for me to change.''