TV station offers bonus to employees who quit smoking

July 19, 1997


Staff Writer

MARION, Pa. - Smokers at WJAL-TV can make their habit pay off if they swear off tobacco.

Vice President and General Manager Buddy Merrick Friday announced a plan to pay the station's smokers $200 when they sign up with any program to break the habit. If they remain smoke-free for six months, they get another $300.

WJAL, a Warner Brothers Network affiliate, has about 20 full-time and part-time employees at its offices on Swamp Fox Road in Marion and its transmitter facility near Mercersburg. About eight or 10 are smokers, and Merrick said half a dozen have taken him up on the offer since he made it about two weeks ago.

"I had one employee say he would flat out not quit smoking for anything. He said, `I'm just not going to smoke from nine to five,'" Merrick said. Otherwise, he expects most of the smokers to have signed up by Sept. 2 when the buildings, grounds and vehicles of the station will be declared smoke-free.


Merrick was asked if employees would have to give back the $200 if their habit got the better of them.

"I don't know. We haven't even considered the contingency. I doubt very much if we would do that," he answered.

He said if someone did start smoking again, "we'd encourage them to get back on the wagon and do it again."

The offer includes money for any of the patches, chewing gums or other medications they use to try and kick the habit. Enrolling in cessation programs or physician visits also would be covered.

He told workers to clear it with him if they planned to enroll in a program or purchase medication costing more than $100. Otherwise it will be left to individual employees to decide on the best method for quitting.

While smokers get a bonus for quitting, the station isn't offering any reward to those who already don't smoke. "A couple of them came and said, `If we sign up can we get the money?'"

"What I said to non-smokers is, `We'll have a program for you somewhere down the line,'" the general manager said.

Meanwhile, Merrick said they enjoy the benefit of a smoke-free environment. Smoking already is banned inside the buildings, but is allowed outside, he said.

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