Denso goes smoke free, from grounds to vehicles

By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

Denso associates and contractors will soon have to find other things to do on a break than smoke or use tobacco.
On April 1, 2008, smoking will no longer be allowed on company property, whether on the grounds or in private vehicles.

Denso announced the move to their employees on June 1. Company officials say the initiative is geared to improving the
health of the employees, and they are backing the effort with their pocketbook.

The company is pledging to pay for smoking cessation medication, patches and even therapy and counseling for associates, their spouses and eligible dependents between ages 18 and 23 from now to when the ban goes in effect. Currently associates can smoke in their vehicles or in smoking parlors on the property. On July 1 of this year, those parlors will be removed, said Bob Booker, manager of legal and environmental engineering services at Denso.

Denso’s timeline toward a target date next spring includes the removal of all tobacco receptacles on Jan. 2, 2008. After that time, tobacco use temporarily will be in private vehicles only. On April 1, 2008, there will be no tobacco use allowed in private vehicles parked on Denso property.

"This has been something under consideration for some time. We have an associate committee that’s been working on this issue for several months. There has been input from all our divisions and associates at a variety of levels," Booker said. "It originated from our compensation and benefits and associate relation department."

Jerrie McAbee, staff administrator for Work Life Programs, said the company wanted to make the stop-smoking programs available to associates if they were interested. "We’re not saying they have to," McAbee said. "We feel like in the long run, we benefit with better health, better engaged employees. There will be lower costs for the company all around. We think we’ll get that back in the long run many times over."

Booker said the company made this move with its associates with one eye on pending state legislation that could ban smoking in most all workplaces. "Like everyone else, we’re also watching legislation going through state government and seeing what the requirements are going to be for the future," he said.

McAbee said Clayton Homes also made their corporate office smoke-free, and Denso used them as a model. "We benchmark with other manufacturers," she said. "They were helpful."

McAbee led the advisory committee that started this initiative. The group met weekly for two months to come up with the details for the move. "We had those who were tobacco users, some who had never used tobacco and some we knew had quit," she said.

Response from employees and their spouses and dependents has been more positive than negative, McAbee said.
"Today I’ve fielded more phone calls from spouses being interested. We know information made it home," she said. "They’ve been calling and asking real quickly. They’ve been very supportive and appreciate we’re doing this."

Denso’s tobacco-free status will extend to the entire 155-acre site, including parking lots, driveways and outdoor recreational areas. Denso has had a longstanding tobacco-free status in its buildings for more than a decade.

Making the announcement first to its 2,540 associates and more than 400 temporary workers and contractors on June 1, company officials stated a desire to establish a total healthy environment. "It has become clear that we have an obligation to provide an even cleaner and more healthful environment for our associates, our customers and our vendors," Mark Hattori, Denso Tennessee president, said, in a press release.

"Denso also wants to help those associates and eligible family members who are nicotine dependent and want to quit," said Jim Woroniecki, senior vice president of human resources and administration. "If we can have a positive impact on the health and longevity of our associates and their families, we feel that we have contributed something really special."

Among the tobacco cessation options being paid for by Denso for its associates and eligible dependents are the American Cancer Society’s Quitline program featuring personal counseling and nicotine replacement therapy, tobacco cessation prescription products (this includes Chantix, Nicotrol, Zyban, etc), weight management support and on-site meeting to obtain more details about tobacco cessation options.

Regarding visitors and contractors, including truck drivers who arrive and depart daily with products for automotive customers throughout North America, Woroniecki said, "There will be adjustments for some of them, but we are confident they will understand our goals and cooperate with these efforts."

"We hope to be a leader in reducing the health hazards caused by tobacco," said Woroniecki said. "Beyond dollars and cents, we have always been dedicated to safety and health. Next April 1, we plan to have a big celebration for all of our associates."

Production associate Doyle Toney was on the committee that orchestrated the initiative. Toney has smoked for 22 years and has worked at Denso for 14 years.

"I think it’s a great idea. I’ve gotten a lot of positive comments," he said. "There was a lot of people who wanted to quit but couldn’t fork over the money that it costs to get cessation drugs, and Denso is willing to pay for that. I thought it was a great deal."

If associates or contractors smoke on campus after the April 1, 2008 ban, supervisors would follow the associates’ rules of conduct. "Our associates’ standards of conduct state that if someone violates something, they can face a verbal reprimand or other forms of discipline. You follow our policies. If you have repeat violations, it could get more serious," Booker said. "It is a progressive system. The key thing is people are going to be given plenty of opportunities to quit. They’ve got multiple means of support."

When asked how this might affect the culture or morale of the company, Booker said it was an effort to improve the company. "I think we expect to maintain and be a successful corporation. We’re always looking to improve," he
said. "Hopefully it will make us a healthier corporation."

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