Susan Hofelt offers cash for workers who stop smoking

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER / Chinook Observer</I><BR>Jolene Pierce, left, is all smiles after Susan Hofelt, her boss at Discovery Coast Cottage Inn, offered her a cash bonus for each month she stops smoking. Hofelt is challenging other local employers to do the same. "The bonus is a good business investment and something that helps our employees be healthier," she says.

LONG BEACH - Humorist Mark Twain once said, "Quitting smoking is easy. I have done it thousands of times." For Jolene Pierce the thought of quitting smoking is no laughing matter. She says, "I've smoked since I was about 13 years old. I even quit once for 13 months, but then I had some difficult times and started the habit again."

Pierce's employer, Susan Hofelt of Discovery Coast Cottage Inn in Long Beach, is willing to help Pierce stop smoking by offering an incentive. "I will pay Jolene $100 for every month she doesn't smoke over the next two years. I know how difficult it is to stop smoking myself. I was a smoker for 20 years, having started smoking during my rebellious teenage years. But I was able to finally quit when I was going to have a baby. That was my incentive to stop smoking."

Hofelt is offering a challenge to other employers in the community. "I believe that a worker's productivity increases when they stop smoking and they miss fewer days of work because their health also improves. I think the $100 is a good business investment and also gives employees an incentive to stop smoking and feel better about themselves."

Pierce says, "I even tried the rubber band trick. I'd put a rubber band on my wrist and every time I felt the urge to have a cigarette, I'd snap myself so my brain would associate pain with the urge to smoke - kind of like Pavlov and his dogs." She says, "I believe Susan offering me and the other employees a $100 reward for stopping smoking is a win-win situation. I will be more productive, have a healthier lifestyle, and won't have the offensive smell of smoke on my clothes. Besides, I don't believe smoking is part of God's plan for me."

Hofelt got the idea of a cash incentive from a story she read about a town in Canada whose employers got together and offered bonuses to their employees who stopped smoking. "When I advertised for the job Jolene accepted I got a 'hate letter' from someone saying coastal motel managers all were chain-smokers and gross and so on. That made me think about how others perceive our business here."

She adds, "I don't have a 'holier than thou' attitude when it comes to smoking. I know how difficult it was for me to finally stop because it took me about 10 tries. But I do know having someone standing out in front of a business smoking does not create the image I would like to have here."

Pierce says, "I will be earning $100 more each month, which is about what I used to spend on cigarettes in a month. I stopped smoking on April Fool's Day, which I think is somehow appropriate." Hofelt is hoping her idea will catch on and that other employers will help their workers get fired up about not lighting up.

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