Letter: More help to quit

I applaud the News for printing Julie Kunrath’s column (“Making our campus tobacco-free,” Oct. 28), which suggested that Yale should ban tobacco on campus. While I support this idea, I highly doubt Yale would take such drastic action, and I suggest a more focused alternative: The University should subsidize smoking cessation.

There are many people on campus, both students and employees, who wish to quit smoking. Subsidizing smoking cessation as part of the Yale Health Plan has obvious social value, but there are economic gains to be had as well. According to estimates by Pfizer, employers pay approximately $1,200 more per year in health costs for smokers than they do for former smokers. Aggregated across all of the smokers at Yale who want to quit, this adds up to a massive cost-savings for the University, especially since benefits for smoking cessation cost employers just $1.20 to $4.80 per employee each year.

Over the next month, Colleges Against Cancer will be surveying Yale Dining employees to estimate the costs smoking imposes on Yale from the time lost due to smoke breaks; however, due to the smoke-related health effects University Health Services must deal with every year, the cost of smoking to the University is undoubtedly higher than simply costs from smoke breaks. We urge Yale students and administration to push the health plan to subsidize smoking cessation — a powerful first step toward a smoke-free university.

Avinash Gandhi

Nov. 4

The writer is a senior in Pierson College and the President of Colleges Against Cancer.


  • BK ’13

    Yeah let’s pay smokers and not pay nonsmokers… that sounds really smart… reward those who were stupid in the first place.

    Oh, and by the way, doesn’t quitting smoking already have great economic incentive? No more cigarettes to buy, being healthier? You guys just think Yale should pay for anything to make it right. How ridiculous

  • Pierson90

    “Over the next month, Colleges Against Cancer will be surveying Yale Dining employees to estimate the costs smoking imposes on Yale from the time lost due to smoke breaks…”

    While you’re at it, why not estimate the costs eating imposes as well? (especially excessive eating and little between-meal snack breaks)

    How dare those workers take brief breaks throughout the day! All of Yale is suffering because of this imposed non-productivity.

  • Goldie ’08

    I think this is a great idea and would have taken advantage of such a program at Yale.

    @ bk ’13, yale subsidizes abortions and morning after pills, presumably for those who “were stupid in the first place.” I have no problem with that policy and support it.

  • inaccordance

    I think Yale should not just be tobacco free but also alcohol free!!!!!!

  • Great idea, really!

    This is a wonderful idea – they’re not ‘paying smokers’, they’re subsidizing the medicinal tools needed to help people quit, which saves Yale and the employees money, and makes the air we all breathe a bit better.

    It’s not something they impose upon people against their will; it’s something which, if people want, the university will help them with. What’s wrong with that?

  • smokingisbad

    Guys, this isn’t actually such a revolutionary or absurd idea. Many other institutions, such as Stanford and UVA, already have such smoking cessation programs in place. We’re not rewarding anyone for being “stupid” – we’re trying to help people become healthy, regardless of their circumstance. Addiction is hard to overcome without assistance, and many people don’t have access to the smoking cessation tools that would help them quit. Pierson 90, I understand that you may not think that the economic aspect of smoking breaks are that important, but smoking breaks are not analogous to “eating breaks” at all…First of all, you actually have to go outside for longer periods of time to smoke, and people who are addicted feel the need to take more breaks than they would otherwise. I’m not saying that dining hall workers shouldn’t take breaks – but showing the economic costs of such breaks may be one of the most effective ways of getting Yale on our side. It’s just one of those unfortunate truths. This is obviously not the only argument for changing the health plan, as Avi stated in his letter. This is one of the many approaches that CAC is going to take toward the end goal, to show all sides of the issue.

  • @ Pierson90

    “While you’re at it, why not estimate the costs eating imposes as well? (especially excessive eating and little between-meal snack breaks)”

    If a group called “Colleges Against Cancer” wants to put their time and effort into fighting smoking, which crazily enough has been linked to smoking, I think that’s great. Where is the harm? I don’t think this is so much about productivity as it is health costs.

    The cost to the university for health care for some employees is probably pretty high – if they save money here, maybe there will be fewer cuts to things of importance to you and I.

  • JE 2011

    Much of the buzz in healthcare reform debate has centered on and emphasized preventative care (ie: increasing compensation to pediatricians/other primary care physicians, decreasing/eliminating co-pays for preventative visits, increasing access to preventative tests such as mammograms, colonoscopies, etc)
    Subsidizing smoking cessation is another way of decreasing future costs to the already over-burdened system and supporting healthy lifestyle choices. You aren’t paying people who smoke to quit, just simply helping to provide them with the means necessary to do so. Employers all over the US have recognized the benefits to such programs and have adopted them successfully. It’s time for Yale to get on board.

  • charlie

    Look, when will people realize that the op-ed was written about banning smoking only on the MED campus? Shaffer and now Gandhi think she wanted the whole campus; she never made this argument.

  • SY 2010

    Regardless of whether or not starting to smoke in the first place was a mistake, if people in the Yale community want to stop smoking the University should support that endeavor in any way possible. Not only will it save the University money, which CAC intends to demonstrate through the surveys, but it will also save people’s lives. Personal financial limitations should not stop Yale employees and students from being able to protect their own health and the health of those around them.

    Even if this article was intended just to focus on the Medical School, it doesn’t have to be that narrow. It is a campus wide problem, and one that can be, at least in part, addressed through the subsidization of smoking cessation by the Yale Health Plan.

  • cancersucks

    very nice rebuttals to the first two comments. Just one comment: It’s crazy how much of a sucky person you are already as a freshman BK ’13. I’m scared of what 4 years at Yale are going to make you.

    i also find it hilarious how some people just can’t resist making snide comments when they’re hidden behind an anonymous name. bk ’13, grow up.

    am i being a hypocrite? who knows.

  • PeaceandProsperity

    I just wish that the comments pages would be used as a forum for frank, yet respectful discussions. This should be a place for meaningful conversation in an effort to better the Yale community, not to be sarcastic and attack others. I just hope that cancersucks and BK ’13 can be more civil to one another when talking about issues of such importance. Maybe an open debate with professors in the relevant fields might be an order? Best wishes to everyone.

  • Colin A

    not a bad idea. Yale provides lots of other services to help everyone in the Yale community overcome other health concerns.

    We act like quitting is so easy but it’s not. I’m sure Yale doesn’t want the people of it’s community to be smoking so they should step up and help them out. They do the same when students become dependent on other substances. Are we sure there is no manner of assistance as of now? Are there any thoughts on what exactly Health Services could do that would REALLY help people rather than another glossy yet specious awareness campaign?

  • Doc Rock

    I think Avi presents a solution that strikes a careful balance between ostracizing smokers and providing a supportive avenue for recovery.
    Smoking is a choice which leads to myriad health problems that Yalies are well aware of. It’s addictive power has been compared to that of cocaine and other illegal drugs. That it remains legal is an enigma of politics.
    Nevertheless, it is our duty to respect the choices of those who smoke, including the choice to quit. That crucial latter choice is often inhibited by the kinds of economic and social disincentives that could be combatted by a Yale policy supporting aid in cessation.
    This is quite patently not a distribution of money to smokers as opposed to non-smokers, or a discrimination against smokers as opposed to a discrimination against the obese or overweight. This is at once an exercise of the kind of preventative medicine that will form the cornerstone of tomorrow’s health care reform and an affirmation of the human will to overcome chemical addiction.

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