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June 29, 2022

Successful Tobacco Cessation Programs Help Employers

How smoking and tobacco use impacts productivity and increases healthcare costs for companies

by: Jennifer Marler

Smoking and tobacco use impacts productivity and increases healthcare costs for companies. Even with the surgeon general’s warning printed on every pack of cigarettes and years of scientific evidence proving that smoking is harmful to health, more than 34 million people in the United States still choose to use tobacco.  

Non-Smokers Take Less Sick Time

Researcher Stephen F. Weng and his team published in Addiction Journal that smokers average a 31% higher sick-leave rate and take almost three more sick days per year than non-smokers. The CDC shares that more than 16 million Americans live with a disease caused by smoking. Smokers face higher risks of cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and problems with the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Smoke Breaks Add Up to a Lot of Lost Work

People who use tobacco take an average of 73 minutes of break time per day to smoke. In a 5-day work week, that’s more than six hours of smoke breaks - almost an entire day missed each week.

Presenteeism Can Be as Harmful as Absenteeism

Former smokers report that they were often distracted by thoughts of their next smoking break when they smoked at work. While the impact of being distracted and not mentally present at work is hard to quantify, it does have a sizable impact on productivity. The National Business Research Institute estimates that presenteeism and reduced performance, including distraction, account for 84 percent of all productivity costs.

Tobacco Use Impacts Business Costs

Smoke-free workplaces can enjoy lower insurance premiums for fire protection. And businesses with low percentages of tobacco users on their teams benefit from lower rates for health insurance, both directly and from the indirect savings of having a healthier workforce. Employers pay an extra $8,000 each year for employees who use tobacco vs. those who do not.

Good News and Solutions are Available

The International Journal of Clinical Practice studied smoking cessation across more than 125,000 subjects globally and noted that successful quitters are “statistically indistinguishable from never smokers” in terms of work productivity. Helping employees quit tobacco is a win/win for workers and the workplace.

Smokers Want to Quit

A whopping 82% of tobacco users show interest in quitting. They need the proper support to be successful. According to research led by Dr. Michael Chaiton, published in BMJ Open, it can take the average smoker more than 30 attempts to quit before they succeed. Offering a tobacco cessation program as a workplace benefit is an effective solution.Smoking is addictive, and it takes support to give it up. Because tobacco use directly impacts every part of a business, employers need to take steps right now to help their team members break the tobacco addiction.

Not All Cessation Programs are Created Equal

Offer programs that have proven success and features that encourage participation. Programs that offer personal counseling, biofeedback options like a mobile sensor that measures carbon monoxide levels in exhaled breath, and plenty of access to helpful self-paced tools work better to support the journey of quitting. Make sure employees know this benefit is available and consider rewards for success. Choose options that provide online access or, even better, a mobile app. It’s also important to understand that tobacco use includes vaping and chewing tobacco, not just cigarette smoking. When you help your employees quit using tobacco, we all win.