Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tribune snuffs out smoker's penalty

Tribune Co.'s new top managers on Tuesday ended a $100-per-month penalty for employees who smoke and enroll in the company's health plan, saying the fee is "inconsistent with the new culture."

"We'd rather you use your own judgment when it comes to tobacco use, not impose ours upon you," Gerry Spector, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, said in an e-mail to employees.

About 600 of more than 16,000 employees in the plan acknowledged smoking when they enrolled in October. The fee, effective Jan. 1, was adopted before Sam Zell, now chairman and chief executive, led the going-private transaction in December.

Spector's e-mail congratulated those who had quit and gotten their fees refunded.

"Quitting is one of the hardest things you'll ever do," he said. Others will be reimbursed in late May for any fees paid.

Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune, will continue to offer a free smoking-cessation program.

—Barbara Rose

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