A frequent question we get: How can I help my employees quit smoking? While huge progress has been made in reducing tobacco dependence, more than 15%, or a whopping 36+ million U.S. adults currently still smoke cigarettes and 480,000 Americans still die from smoking every year
There are more men (17%) who smoke than women (13%) and by age, adults aged 25–44 years are on the high end of the spectrum at nearly 18%. There are also some industries that have higher percentage of smokers than others. Past studies showed that construction workers, miners, and hotel and food services workers had significantly higher rates of smoking, while workers in the education, training, and library occupations had the lowest rates.
Even a low percentage of smoking employees can be costly. Smoking-related illness costs more than $300 billion a year in the U.S., including nearly $170 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity.
What you can do to help your employees quit smoking?
- Establish a tobacco-free policy at the workplace. A policy should encompass all forms of tobacco, including chewing tobacco, cigars, pipes, etc. Consider including vaping in your list of prohibitions. Make sure that you communicate the policy to all employees and establish consequences for violation.
- Make your property smoke free. If you already have a tobacco-free policy in place, expand the parameters to include your entire workplace property. Ban smoking in doorways, in company vehicles, and in your parking lots.
- Ensure that your health plan providers offer tobacco cessation benefits. Publicize these benefits to employees. If there are copays or out-of-pocket costs, consider picking up the tab.
- Offer multiple quit-smoking help modalities. Not every method will work for all people, and experts suggest that doubling up on treatment modalities can increase chances for success. Plus, most smokers have several unsuccessful attempts before they succeed: the American Cancer Society says it takes 8–10 quit attempts.
- Engage a wellness program that has quit smoking programs and smoking cessation coaching or counseling. One-to-one tobacco cessation coaches coupled with other modalities can bolster success rates. If you do not have a wellness program, check to see if smoking cessation counseling/coaching resources are available through your insurer or in community health centers.
- Get your employees to take Health Risk Appraisals. Recent research shows that smokers who know their personal risk are more likely to quit.
- Offer quit-smoking incentives / disincentives. Many employers offer cash rewards or other incentives for employees who quit smoking. And under The Affordable Care Act, tobacco users can be charged up to 50% more for health insurance. Learn more about incentives in our TotalCare Wellness Knowledge Center.
- Educate employees. Periodically provide information about smoking health risks at health fairs, in newsletters, in benefit promos, and in payroll stuffers. Take a page from advertisers – repeat, repeat, repeat – it works.
- Make related support tools available. When smokers are quitting, the withdrawal period is often accompanied by unpleasant side effects, such as weight gain, stress and sleep disorders, to name a few. To enhance the chance for success, consider making other support services such as stress management coaching, nutrition counseling and exercise programs available.
- Participate in public health observances, such as the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout in November and the World Health Organization’s World No Tobacco Day in May. Tap into free promotional materials and toolkits by the sponsoring organizations.