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Why You Need a Smoking Cessation Program

February 1, 2019 - minute read

smoking cessation program Perhaps your company already offers a formal smoking cessation program to employees. Perhaps you’re thinking about adding one to your wellness program. Either way, it’s a great idea. Helping workers quit smoking both benefits your workforce and your bottom line.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. One out of every six adults—about 15% of the population—is a smoker. If your company has 1,000 employees, 150 or so of them smoke. Don’t think that’s impacting your business? Think again!

Of course, you already have 1001 action items on your HR to-do list. Creating a smoking cessation program may not seem very pressing. But once you take a closer look at the toll that smoking takes on your people and profits, you may be compelled to give it priority status.

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Illness (and Worse)

One really can’t overstate the health risks of smoking (and smokeless tobacco use). To put it bluntly: if you smoke, your life expectancy is more than 10 years shorter than the non-smoking version of you, according to the Surgeon General.

In the U.S., smoking is responsible for 87% of lung cancer deaths and 32% of deaths from coronary heart disease. One out of every three cancer deaths is caused by smoking—which also increases one’s risk of diabetes, heart attack and stroke, as well as illnesses like bronchitis and pneumonia.

Smokers’ families experience health problems, too. Adults and children exposed to secondhand smoke have higher healthcare costs. Kids with parents who smoke get more severe asthma, bronchitis and ear infections than those with nonsmoking parents. Smoking hurts everyone. 

Smoking Hits Some Industries Harder Than Others     

Research indicates that hourly workers are more likely to smoke than their salaried counterparts. According to the CDC, blue and pink-collar workers smoke at higher rates than white-collar workers.

In fact, according to a National Health Interview Survey, industries with the highest prevalence of tobacco users—including cigarettes, smokeless tobacco products and e-cigarettes—are (in descending order):

  • Construction – 34.3%
  • Mining – 30.4%
  • Transportation and Warehousing – 30.2%
  • Waste Management – 30.0%
  • Accommodation and Food Services – 29.9%
  • Manufacturing – 27.3%

In contrast, industries with the lowest percentage of smokers include education, healthcare and social assistance and the arts, entertainment, and recreation.

Furthermore, tobacco use correlates to education and income. The less education workers have, and the lower their income, the more likely they are to be smokers. While all employers can benefit from organized smoking cessation programs, there is a greater need in businesses that employ hourly, blue- and pink-collar workers—does that include yours?

Each Smoker Costs You HOW MUCH Extra Per Year?

Yes, your employees’ smoking habit is your business. That’s because, according to a startling study by Ohio State University, each worker who smokes cost his/her employer nearly $6,000 more each year than their nonsmoking peers—$5,816, to be exact.   

The researchers found that these three factors contribute to this cost:

  • Increased Absenteeism – Not only are smokers more likely to call in sick due to short-term illnesses like bronchitis and the flu, their illness-prone kids require more sick days, too. Researchers found that smokers are absent 2.3 more days per year than their nonsmoking colleagues.
  • Presenteeism/Lost Productivity – Study results found that smokers work at a lower level of productivity, caused by unauthorized smoking breaks, distractions created by the demands of their addictions, and attempts to work while battling smoking-related illness. All these added up to a loss of more than $3,000 per year for employers.
  • Increased Medical Costs – By studying the claims incurred by self-insured employers, researchers calculated that smokers incur more than $2,000 per year in additional healthcare costs than non-smokers.

Based on this, what is smoking costing your business? Quick: take your total number of employees, divide by 15, then multiply by $5,816. Using our 1,000-employee example, that’s $872,400 out-of-pocket every year. That’s a solid incentive for enhancing your wellness program by offering a smoking cessation benefit!  

What a Smoking Cessation Program Can Do

To quit smoking is a hard thing to do. After all, nicotine has been found to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin. It’s not unusual for smokers to quit more than a few times before it actually sticks. However, when employers offer a comprehensive smoking cessation program, it gives workers a great place to start.

And the benefits are substantial: within 12 months of quitting, workers greatly reduce their risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic health conditions—while eliminating the need for clandestine smoking breaks.

How can EPAY help? For one thing, our all-in-one HCM system streamlines everyday HR admin, freeing you up to work on action items like crafting a meaningful smoking cessation program. For another, its employee benefits module is flexible enough to accommodate your evolving wellness program—and of course, our system is built for employers with an hourly workforce. We just make it easier for you to manage your workforce and oversee its benefits. See how we do it—it takes two minutes!  

Filed Under: Employee Benefits