Civil liberties group disagrees with Wellmark no smoking policy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Civil liberties group disagrees with Wellmark no smoking policy


DES MOINES (KWWL) -- Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield plans to snuff out smoking for its employees during the work day. Right now, workers have had to smoke 100 feet away from the company's properties. Beginning October 1st workers will not be allowed to smoke during breaks or when they go to lunch.

A spokesman says Wellmark is not trying to be "Big Brother to employees," but as a health insurer, the company is always looking for ways to promote a healthier workplace.

Area civil liberties organizations say Wellmark isn't doing it to encourage a better lifestyle instead they say Wellmark is doing it to save a buck. Ben Stone, Executive Director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, says the new rule is pushing things a little too far.

"From a civil liberties perspective from the perspective of respecting the individual integrity and rights of people to make their own decisions about their own lives it is certainly a step in the direction of controlling people," said Stone.

The Iowans we talked to on the street agree and wonder how far companies will go.

"I understand if a company wants to say you can't smoke on their grounds and that's their company policy but I feel it's a little too much of an invasion of a privacy that they can't go somewhere else and come back," said Des Moines native, Liz Burns.

"I'm really worried about what's the enforcement of that and how they can monitor compliance outside of work hours and if people leave work and certainly I think some employers are a bit intrusive on their workers lives as it is," said Cedar Falls resident Chris Conklin.

Stone says it's comes down to the almighty dollar and Wellmark is pushing for healthier employees to save on insurance.

"If you can tell your insurance carrier the people you have don't smoke, don't ride motorcycles, they don't go rock climbing, they don't jump out of airplanes... It's called lifestyle discrimination and it's something that's been growing all across the country and it's legal unless state legislators enact protections against it," said Stone.

Online Reporter: John Wilmer

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