Smoking causes about 480,000 deaths every year and remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. When an employee or a member of their family is addicted to nicotine, the impact on business can be significant. According to a study published by Ohio State University, smoking can cost an employer nearly $6,000 per employee, per year. Increased healthcare costs, lower productivity and the potential for serious illness are documented consequences of smoking and vaping. Empowering your employees, and providing them with the tools to overcome nicotine dependence and lead healthier lives, results in rewards that extend far beyond the walls of the office.
Nicotine dependence is a medical condition and needs to be treated that way. Working with a specialist on a quit plan that combines treatment of the physiological effects with counseling to address behavioral habits allows a much greater chance for success. Medications and patches can assist a person with a nicotine addiction, but equally important is to have the right support, both at home and at work, where the average person spends one-third of their life.
What Can Employers Do?
Nicotine cessation continues to be one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity in the workplace. Here are some steps that employers can take to support their employees and their bottom line:
Implement a smoke-free workplace policy. Research has shown that when more workplaces go smoke-free, more homes do too.
Provide employees with cessation resources, including evidence-based cessation programs and support groups. Many options come at little to no cost to employers.
Provide coverage for nicotine cessation medication and counseling through health plans for employees and their families.
Offer financial incentives for employees to participate in nicotine recovery programs, such as wellness program rewards or savings on medical plan benefits.
Set up a support group at the workplace to give employees an opportunity to come together, get counseling and support each other on their quit journeys.
About the Author: Connie Greene is senior vice president at RWJBarnabas Health Institute for Prevention and Recovery.