Vaping and Tobacco Use Policies

From ChamberChoice

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) permits employers to charge higher premiums to tobacco users for medical coverage (except where limited by state law). This should be done in conjunction with a wellness plan that offers tobacco cessation counseling, and employers generally will determine tobacco use by requiring employees to complete a questionnaire. Currently, tobacco use is defined as using tobacco products an average of four or more times per week within the past six months, excluding religious or ceremonial uses.

The popularity of electronic cigarettes (or “e-cigarettes”) creates a dilemma for employers who feature a tobacco surcharge in their benefit plan. Many electronic cigarette or vaping products do not include leaf tobacco at all, although many do include nicotine. In mid-2016, the Food and Drug Administration began to regulate electronic cigarette products. This led many employers to begin including such products under the definition of “tobacco use.” However, it is still unclear whether the provisions of the ACA discussing tobacco use are intended to cover vaping and electronic cigarettes.

Therefore, if employers want to include vaping in the definition of tobacco use, they should explicitly do so in the affidavit or other form that employees complete to verify whether or not the employee uses tobacco. Employers should also consider how they wish to treat the use of electronic cigarettes that do not feature any nicotine – categorizing the use of these products as “tobacco use” may or may not be permitted; but the employer can protect itself by adopting a clear, consistent policy. Further federal regulatory guidance on this issue is needed, and employers should closely follow any developments in this area as the regulatory environment surrounding electronic cigarette and vaping devices changes over the next few years.

Employers may also wish to update any workplace or employee tobacco use policies to include electronic cigarette products. Tackling this issue prospectively will help avoid employee complaints of inconsistent treatment. This policy should be consistent with how the employer treats tobacco use for benefit purposes, and it should be advertised to all employees and other individuals (volunteers, contractors, clients, students, etc.) who may be affected by or subject to the policy.

This newsletter gives a basic overview of recent regulation as in effect on the date of the newsletter. Please be aware that the determination of the requirements and the application of these rules to each employer may differ due to a number of variables. Nothing in this newsletter should be construed as legal advice.

Seeking Business Input on Proposed Bus Route

Would a public bus be used by your employees? A group of agencies working to establish service along the Route 11 corridor from Berwick to Selinsgrove is seeking input from local employers as planning moves forward. It is anticipated that service would begin in 2020.

The effort is being spearheaded by the Greater Susquehanna Valley United Way and United Way of Columbia and Montour County, with support from the Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations.

Businesses are invited to participate in the survey by Friday, March 29t.

PA Chamber Applauds Governor’s Focus on Workforce Development in 2019-20 Budget Proposal, Warns Against Policies That Will Hurt State’s Competitiveness

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The 2019-20 budget process is officially underway and with it has come a renewed sense of optimism that a budget will be finalized by the June 30th constitutional deadline. With year-to-date revenue collections currently $290 million above estimate, the governor’s budget proposal does not include any broad-based tax increases. While making it clear there were some items in which they disagreed on, Republican legislative leaders have been quick to commend the governor for setting a bipartisan tone and emphasizing the issues on which elected officials can find common ground on.

As I noted in last month’s column, workforce development was a major theme of the governor’s address. This is an issue that crosses party lines and brings together groups that aren’t often on the same page when it comes to policy issues – a fact that the governor highlighted in his speech. As part of the administration’s efforts on this issue, the governor has signed an Executive Order creating the Keystone Economic Development and Workforce Command Center – which aims to bring together the various elements of state government that oversee workforce development programs with the private sector to identify ways to close the jobs skills gap; fill the many open positions that exist throughout the state and make Pennsylvania more competitive on a national and global scale. I’m honored that the governor has asked me to help lead this effort. Joining me as a co-chair is Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale. With workforce development a cornerstone of the PA Chamber’s mission, we look forward to continuing to partner with the Wolf administration, elected officials and our counterparts in the labor community to develop innovative solutions to address the Commonwealths’ workforce challenges.

There are, however, some components of the governor’s budget proposal that cause concern for the state’s broad-based business community. Once again the Wolf administration has proposed tying a reduction in the state’s Corporate Net Income tax rate with the implementation of mandatory unitary combined reporting. While the PA Chamber has long argued that the state’s CNI tax rate – which is one of the highest effective rates in the nation – needs to be lowered, we disagree that it should be linked to a combined reporting proposal. This complex, overly broad tax reporting system will only lead to increased administrative and litigation costs and will put Pennsylvania at a greater competitive disadvantage.

Additionally concerning is the administration’s push for an aggressive increase to the state’s minimum wage rate. The administration’s plan calls for employers, in just a few months, to increase entry level wages by more than 65 percent. Restaurants – many of whom already operate on thin profit margins – would see their wages increase by more than 235 percent and ultimately by more than 500 percent, due to the governor’s plan to eliminate the tipped wage. We are warning lawmakers of the negative unintended consequences that result from mandated wage increases – which can include increased labor costs; reduced hours and even job loss. Also, it’s important to note that the actual demographics of the state’s minimum wage earners paint a much different picture than what wage proponents would have you believe. According to the PA Department of Labor and Industry’s Minimum Wage Advisory Board’s “2019 Minimum Wage Report,” the vast majority of minimum wage earners have no children and almost 60 percent are under the age of 25.

As part of our advocacy efforts on this issue, we are encouraging employers statewide to let us know how this proposal would impact their individual businesses. Being able to provide real-life examples from Pennsylvania job creators will help us make the case to lawmakers that they must pursue alternative solutions to help low-income Pennsylvanians without risking job loss and other negative impacts. Employers can share their feedback – which can remain anonymous – on the PA Chamber’s website.

Over the coming weeks, the PA Chamber will be working closely with our local chamber partners to urge lawmakers to enact a responsible spending plan that doesn’t place undue burdens on the backs of the Commonwealth’s job creators. Check the PA Chamber’s website for more information on all of these issues, as well as for updates on our advocacy efforts.

Member News – March 20, 2019

  • Currently, and running through April 4, the United Way of Columbia and Montour County is again offering free basic tax help to low and moderate-income residents in the community. This program will be held Tuesdays and Wednesday from 2-6 p.m. and Thursdays from 4-8 p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church, located at 130 W. 3rd St., Bloomsburg (use the rear entrance). No appointments are necessary, only drop-offs and walk-ins will be accepted. For questions, call the United Way at 570-784-3134 or email, and see the flyer for additional information.


  • Commonwealth Health – Berwick Hospital Center is presenting a free six-week educational series titled “Six Weeks to Better Health” beginning running each Wednesday through April 17, from 12-1 p.m. at the Hospital’s Conference Room 1 and 2, located at 701 East 16th St., Berwick. The final session in the series will be held from 5-6 p.m. on April 17. Titles of the remaining sessions are: Why Do I need a Colonoscopy?; Living with Joint Disease; Solutions for Leg Pain and Swelling; Dealing with the Symptoms of Menopause; and Advanced Directives and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). For more information, see the flyer, and to RSVP, call 570-759-5337. 



  • In celebration of its 20 years of service, the Central Susquehanna Community Foundation (CSCF) held its Annual Meeting on March 6 at the Pine Barn Inn.

    L-R: Holly Morrison, CSCF president and CEO; Mike Flock, Youth in Philanthropy volunteer and former CSCF and Selinsgrove Area Community Foundation board member; John Kurelja, CSCF board member; Julie Eriksson, Selinsgrove Area Community Foundation board member and Robinson Fund representative; Gerard Stropnicky, story facilitator; Tina DeLong, Nurse-Family Partnership nurse and former client; Ellen Withrow, grant recipient with Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit and Women’s Giving Circle member; Mike Benjamin, Danville Area Community Foundation’s Holiday Happenings committee co-chair; Kayla Zambiasi, Nurse-Family Partnership nurse and former client; Cory Fasold, Sunbury Area Community Foundation board member and Mertz Fund representative; Janelle Surkin, Berwick Area YMCA and community volunteer; Sharon Hess, Volunteers in Philanthropy committee member and former Berwick Health and Wellness Fund Advisory Committee member; Mel Endy, Carol Deforest Locke-Endy Fund representative; Vincent Krum, Rechsteiner Family Scholarship Fund and Robin Buehner Kindness Scholarship Fund recipient; Kara G. Seesholtz, CSCF chief advancement officer; Tara King, grant recipient with Berwick Dental Health Clinic

    During the event, 14 inspiring stories were shared about the impact CSCF has had in communities throughout the Central Susquehanna region. The CSCF manages more than 260 charitable funds and makes grant investments throughout the region to improve the quality of life in the Central Susquehanna area. Central Susquehanna partners with regional affiliates including the Berwick Health and Wellness Fund, Bloomsburg Area Community Foundation and Danville Area Community Foundation. 


  • For The Cause is inviting area nonprofits, their boards and their prospective donors to a free 90-minutes conversations on smarter giving and fundraising strategies on Wednesday, March 27, from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Teen Center, located at 1130 Sixth Ave., Berwick. They’ll discuss how to recognize donors, maximizing gift impact potential, minimizing taxes, and more. Seating is limited, so please RSVP by March 22 by email. For more information, see the flyer.


  • Bloomsburg University’s Professional U program will host a Marketing, Management and Communications Career Connections Expo on Thursday, March 28, from 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. in the Kehr Union Ballroom on the BU campus. Any employer looking to recruit business or communications students would benefit from participating. Employers interested in participating should call 570-389-3791 or email


  • The Weis Center for the Performing Arts will host internationally-distinguished string quartet, the Aizuri Quartet, on Sunday, March 31, at 2 p.m. in the Weis Center Atrium.

    The Aizuri Quartet

    The performance is free and tickets are not required. The Aizuri Quartet will present a new project, Intricate Machines, which pairs the acclaimed quartet with rising American composers Nina C. Young, Sky Macklay, Daniel Temkin, Phil Taylor and Katherine Balch. The five works on the program were all written since 2013, and feature composers of diverse styles, sensibilities, and geographic locales. 


  • Employees of all Chamber members are invited and welcome to attend Bloomsburg University Professional U’s Don’t be Fooled by the Fork networking dinner on Monday, April 1, at 6 p.m. at Monty’s on the BU Upper Campus. This dinner is an opportunity for BU students to practice professional networking and dining etiquette in a social setting among alumni and professional volunteers. Chamber members are welcome to join this event as role models and table hosts, and impart your wisdom to current students as they learn how to conduct themselves in a professional dining situation. There is no charge to attend this event and the meal is complimentary, however donations are appreciated in the form of a plate sponsorship ($40) or table sponsorship ($280). Register and make any voluntary donations online by March 22.

32nd Annual Central Susquehanna Builders Association Home Show Set for This Weekend

The Central Susquehanna Builders Association will hold its 32nd annual Home & Outdoor Living Show this weekend, March 22-24, at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds. This annual home show brings together dozens of builders, realtors, lenders and various other home accessory and improvement organizations together to display their products and services to thousands of attendees over the course of the weekend. The event will be held in both the Arts & Crafts and Industrial Arts Buildings.

Admission to the event is $5 and the hours of operation are Friday from 3-8 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Several other Chamber members are scheduled to be in attendance as vendors, including: AC&R Service, Inc., Associated Insurance Management, Bear Rental, Boulder Landscape, Carriage Manor Builders, Century 21 Mertz & Associates, Chip Adams Sewer and Drain, First Columbia Bank & Trust, First Keystone Community Bank, Garvey’s Flooring America, Larry C. Frace Inspections, Robert G. Dent Heating & AC, Inc., Service 1st Federal Credit Union, Swank & Son Well Drilling and Pump Co., and XW Construction.