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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are Frequently Asked Questions about the Tobacco Surcharge Program. If you cannot find the information you need, please contact Valerie Robinson.

Who will be subject to the tobacco surcharge?

Currently, this program covers employees on the university’s medical plans only.  Dependents and spouses/partners will not complete a Tobacco Affidavit for 2018.  Beginning with open enrollment this year, medical (Base, Choice, Premier) plan members will be asked to complete the Tobacco Use Surcharge Affidavit (the “Affidavit”) annually to self-report whether they are a tobacco user or non-user.   

What is the university defining as a tobacco user?

The University is defining a tobacco user as someone who has used tobacco four or more times per week, excluding religious or ceremonial uses, within the previous 60 days.  Tobacco includes cigars, cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipe tobacco, snuff, dip, e-cigarettes or any other tobacco product.  For the purpose of this policy, this does NOT include nicotine patches, nicotine gum or other items considered primarily tobacco cessation aids.  

How much is the tobacco surcharge and when does it take effect?

The tobacco surcharge is $50 monthly/$25 biweekly and will be effective March 1, 2018.  Employees who self-report as a tobacco user and do not submit a Cessation Program Verification Form or updated Affidavit indicating a reduction in tobacco use below the threshold of the definition or quit tobacco completely by February 28, 2018 will be assessed the surcharge.    

I am a tobacco user, is there an alternative way to qualify to have the tobacco surcharge waived?

OCU recognizes that quitting tobacco is hard and a tobacco user may need several attempts to quit for good.  Therefore, if you are a tobacco user, you have several options available to have the tobacco surcharge waived.  In order to avoid the surcharge, you may:

  • Quit tobacco completely or reduce your tobacco usage below the threshold of four times per week during the 60 days prior to February 28, 2018.
  • Complete a tobacco cessation program, as defined below, and submit a Cessation Program Verification Form signed by your cessation provider to Human Resources by February 28, 2018. 

What will happen if I do not complete and submit the Affidavit

 If you do not complete and submit the Affidavit as part of open enrollment, the tobacco-usage surcharge will be applied effective March 1, 2018.  All full-time, benefit-eligible employees must complete the online open enrollment form each year whether or not they are enrolled in any benefits.

What is considered a cessation program?

A tobacco cessation program is a minimum of four in-person or telephonic one-on-one or group sessions lasting a minimum of 10 minute sessions with a medical care provider discussing tobacco use, quitting, resources, barriers to quitting, and/or ways to be successful at a quit attempt.  Tobacco cessation is considered preventive by our health plan and covered at 100% through a preferred medical provider. 

When you have completed four sessions, ask your cessation provider to complete the provider section of the Tobacco Cessation Program Verification Form and submit the form to HR no later than February 28, 2018.   

Tobacco cessation medications are expensive; do I have to pay for them if I choose to use them in my quit attempt?

If you are covered by the Base, Choice, or Premier Pan, are prescribed cessation medications by a health care provider, and fill the prescription at a preferred pharmacy, a limited amount of the medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter, will be covered by the OCU medical plan at 100%.

If you are not prescribed the medications by a provider and instead purchase over-the-counter cessation aids yourself, you will not be reimbursed for the purchase.  

Will new hires be able to qualify for the waiver of the tobacco use charge?

Yes, new employees will be given the opportunity to qualify to have the surcharge waived.  If the new employee enrolls in the university medical plan and is a tobacco user, the surcharge will be delayed for the first 60 days to qualify for a waiver of the fee.  During that time, the new employee may qualify by being completely tobacco free throughout the 60-day period, reducing their use of tobacco below the threshold of the definition of tobacco user, or completing a cessation program with a medical provider and submitting a Tobacco Cessation Program Certification Form along with the Affidavit. 

If the new hire does not submit the Affidavit at the end of the 60 day period, or submits the Affidavit as a tobacco user the surcharge will be applied and will remain in place until the next period of time to qualify for a waiver.  

If I do not qualify for the tobacco surcharge waiver initially am I eligible for the waiver later in the year?

The Cessation Completion Verification Form may be submitted until February 28, 2018.  The next opportunity to submit an Affidavit for a waiver will be in the fall of 2018 and the surcharge will be waived beginning in January, 2019.  

Are electronic cigarettes included as tobacco use for the surcharge?

Yes, because they may contain tobacco, and most contain nicotine, which is derived from tobacco, e-cigarettes are considered tobacco and users are subject to the surcharge. The health effects of using electronic cigarettes are currently unknown but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers e-cigarettes to be a tobacco product, not a cessation product. 

Several studies regarding the long-term health effects of nicotine vapor, both inhaled directly and secondhand, are currently in progress. The FDA will be developing regulations on electronic cigarettes as tobacco products under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.  The Center for Disease Control considers e-cigarette use an emerging public health challenge.

I use the nicotine patch; does that count as tobacco use?

No. Nicotine replacement therapy, such as the nicotine patch or nicotine gum, does not count as tobacco use

What if I indicate I am a non-tobacco user when I fill out the Affidavit but become a tobacco user during the year?

If you indicated you were a non-tobacco user or used tobacco below the four times per week threshold on your Affidavit and then began using or increased your use above the threshold, you must immediately notify HR that you are subject to the surcharge by completing a new Affidavit. 

The surcharge will be assessed for the remainder of 2018 or until you complete a cessation program and submit a Cessation Program Verification Form.  At that time, any surcharge applied in 2018 will be refunded.  During open enrollment in 2018, you will complete another Affidavit to declare your tobacco use for 2019.

Isn’t this really just another way to shift costs to employees?

No, this is a program designed to encourage employees engaging in an unhealthful, modifiable practice to improve their health.  

What resources are available to quit tobacco use?

Resources are numerous to those attempting to quit tobacco.  Medical providers, web resources, former tobacco users experience and tips, phone counseling, text messages, group sessions, and over-the-counter and prescription quit medications allow each person to customize their attempt for the best chance at success.  Here are some we are aware of.