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Smoking future foggy for UT employees

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TWC News: Smoking future foggy for UT employees
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Smokers are going to pay more for their habit.

Starting in September, UT employees who use tobacco will pay an extra $360 per year, or $30 per month, for health insurance.

"It's my personal choice to smoke cigarettes. It's not illegal for me to do so, but why should I have to pay more for my insurance?” William Kane said.

According to UT documents, tobacco-use is inconsistent with the school's "culture of wellness."

"It's $30 I could spend on something else," Anthony Estillore said. "I think it really boils down to free will and choice."

The program is called the Tobacco Premium Program, and for the university, the move is also about money. If UT doesn't ban tobacco, it could forfeit as much as $80 million in cancer research funding.

"I can do everything except stop smoking," Miriam Pashby said. "The smokers are now the enemy, whereas, I guess, during prohibition it was the booze."

According to school officials, employees can get help to stop smoking at no cost. If a smoker takes one of the cessation courses and succeeds, after 60 days they can sign a form that will bring their insurance rates back down again.

"Looks like I will be taking one of the cessation programs because I, personally, don't want to pay more for insurance, because I'm already paying for it," Kane said.

Experts say tobacco costs the state more than $5 billion a year in health care costs, and not all smokers think paying more is unfair.

“Course I don't like it, but I do think it's fair," Pashby said. "And all you smokers, I don't want to hear from you. It is fair."

The premium will begin for UT employees on Sept. 1. Smoking will be completely banned on the UT campus starting March 1, 2013.

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