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.
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
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
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
Written by Leeann Garms _________________________________________________________________________________________________