Utah’s largest hospital chain is bent on snuffing out cigarettes online use.

Intermountain Healthcare hospital campuses went smoke-free earlier this year. Now they’re tacking a monthly $20 surcharge on to the health insurance premiums of workers who use tobacco.

The move is an effort to improve employee wellness and set a healthy example, said spokesman Daron Cowley. "Intermountain felt that this surcharge was fully in line with its mission of helping [to] encourage healthier communities."

Intermountain is hardly the first employer to butt into employee’s personal habits. Earlier this year health insurer Humana and the Baylor Health Care System in northern Texas imposed outright bans on tobacco. These companies no longer hire workers who smoke cigarettes buy cigarette online or use other cheap cigarette online products — a policy enforced with pre-employment urine screens.

Businesses outside the health care industry are embracing similar get-tough policies, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Among them: Macy’s, PepsiCo, publisher Gannett and Union Pacific.

If such policies seem unfair, they’re not discriminatory.

Erik Strindberg, an employment attorney in Salt Lake City, likens them to hospitals requiring workers to get flu shots.

In Utah, it might be possible to argue smoking cigarettes bans disproportionately effect non-Mormons and make a case for religious discrimination, Strindberg said. But companies need only prove there are legitimate health reasons behind the rule.

Todays Note: top Harpy article.