Georgia Smokers Fuming Over Insurance Surcharge

The new increase will affect state workers, public school teachers and their family members who admit to using any tobacco product in the past year.

State employees in Georgia need to think long and hard before taking another puff on a cigarette, because a new state law will now charge tobacco users an extra $40 a month for health insurance.

Jennifer Hattaway with the Lowndes County School System says, "Several of them have expressed that they’re going to write their legislatures about it and go that route to hopefully enact some change."

But for now, the surcharge is forcing many employees to either kick their habit or dig deeper into their pocketbooks.

State officials say employees will be expected to use the honor system when signing up for coverage and asked if they use tobacco products. Now, those caught lying about their tobacco habit will lose their health insurance coverage for one year.

The good news is some state businesses say they won't really feel the surcharge impact at all.

Susan Dukes of the Georgia Department of Labor says, "Over the years we have seen a drastic decrease in the number of employees who smoke. At one time it would have been well over half. Now, I said, we've got four out of roughly 50."

Hattaway adds, "We've had many people express that this will be a good reason for them or their dependants or spouses to stop using tobacco products, so hopefully that will be the positive thing that comes out of this."

The new surcharge will go into effect on July 1 for all tobacco-using state employees.

Georgia now joins three other states that are already imposing a surcharge on health insurance for employees who smoke, a trend that's now popular in the private business sector.