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Wellness in Action: Smoking Cessation

We are all well-aware of the risks of regular smoking over a lifetime – stroke, lung cancer and disease, heart disease, cancer of the mouth, kidney, pancreas, cervix, esophagus, bladder and many other health conditions that can result in death. According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking harms nearly every organ in the human body1. In an economy where workers are expected to continue to increase productivity with less resources, it is essential employees remain as healthy as possible to avoid sick leave costs and lost output. The effects of smoking and second-hand smoke cost American businesses approximately $97 billion in lost productivity and an additional $94 billion in health care costs2.

Research shows that nearly 20 percent of adult workers still smoke – the equivalent of one in five employees3. The cost of health care continues to rise for businesses, especially among smokers, but smoking cessation programs have a proven track record of effectiveness and generally are greeted with a positive response from the workforce. Following are a few things to keep in mind as you implement a smoking cessation program at your workplace.

Do your research

How many employees in your business smoke? Are these employees open to a smoking cessation program? The key to a successful program is communication with all employees. Developing a plan that is only conceived by non-smokers will not be well-received by smoking employees. Decision-makers should be primarily smokers who recognize the negative effects of their habit and have a desire to quit.

Other important questions to ask:

  • What is the current smoking policy?
  • Do certain departments have more smokers?
  • What are popular locations to smoke?
  • What is the level of knowledge about the medical effects of smoking?
  • What are the primary concerns with implementing this policy?

Based on the responses, it is important to tailor your company’s policy to these concerns. In order to be successful, a company cannot implement a cookie cutter policy. A program must be developed to suit the needs of its smoking population.

Resolve conflicts

To avoid future conflict or possible confrontations, a written policy should be created and accessible to all employees, at all levels within the company. After initial implementation, the policy will need to be evaluated and re-evaluated on a regular basis. Certain policies may be more difficult to enforce at the beginning of the program or become obsolete after a few months4.

Another key is advocate fairness for all employees. For example, without a smoking cessation program in place, a smoking employee may take four, 15-minute smoking breaks each day. This totals a full hour of productivity lost during the work day. If this employee makes $15 per hour, that is $300 per month and $3,600 a year. A non-smoking employee does not take these breaks, but still makes the same amount when at the same level. Ensuring all employees are treated fairly prevents possible conflicts or objections.

Although just under 11 percent of company management still continue to smoke5, it is important to have a system in place to help all employees quit. Not only does that protect your business’ bottom line, but it also insures the health of your employees against preventable diseases and conditions. In addition, encouraging entire families to participate in the cessation program can increase accountability and effectiveness of the policies.

Good luck!

Written by Leeann Garms _________________________________________________________________________________________________