Is it time for your organization to do more to encourage employees to quit smoking? Smoking tobacco is still the number one killer of individuals in the US and associated illnesses cost billions for American businesses. Here is your chance to take advantage of a nation-wide effort. Every year, the third Thursday November — November 16th this year — is the Great American Smokeout. Smokers are encouraged to give up smoking for 24 hours in the hope that this head start will support a long-term behavior change.
Resources from the American Cancer Society are available and community events you can tag onto pop-up across the nation. The CDC also offers many free resources for you to use in your efforts.
This can be a great company-wide event to improve the health of your employees. But is it really a company’s place to promote smoking cessation? Citing benefits for employers and employees, many states have passed laws requiring workplaces to be smoke free. The Lung Association offers a Worksheet to determine State laws that may apply to your organization.
Here are some benefits of a smoke-free workplace as identified by the American Cancer Society:
Benefits for the Employees

  • A smoke-free environment helps create a safe, healthful workplace.
  • Workers who are bothered by smoke will not be exposed to it at the worksite.
  • Smokers who want to quit may have more of an incentive to do so.
  • Smokers may appreciate a clear company policy about smoking at work.
  • Managers are relieved when a process for dealing with smoking in the workplace is clearly defined

For the Employer

  • A smoke-free environment helps create a safe, healthful workplace.
  • Direct health care costs to the company may be reduced.
  • A well-planned and carefully implemented effort by the employer to address the effect of smoking on employees’ health and the health of their families shows the company cares.
  • Employees may be less likely to be absent from work due to smoking related illnesses.
  • Maintenance costs go down when smoke, matches, and cigarette butts are eliminated in facilities.
  • Office equipment, carpets, and furniture last longer.
  • The risk of fires is lower.
  • It may be possible to negotiate lower health, life, and disability insurance coverage as employee smoking is reduced.

Creating a Smoke-Free Work Policy
Creating a Smoke-Free Policy is a good way to clearly present your organization’s position on this practice in the workplace. For model policies check out The American Cancer Society
Making a policy successful may depend on a few preparations:

  • Find out what your employees want. You may discover that employees object to co-workers smoking outside the front door or beneath open windows. Second-hand smoke is a consideration when identifying smoking places on company property.
  • Announce the no smoking policy ahead of its implementation.
  • Give details of how things will change and allow employees time to adjust to new rules. If possible, specify a starting date.
  • Help employees kick the habit by offering a smoking-cessation program.
  • Offer access to support through a health professional or your EAP. It is proven that groups of individuals who quit together offer each other support, and this can often enhance success.

While eliminating smoking in the workplace is a good start, refusing to hire smokers all together is not an option for most organizations. More than half the states in the US have “lifestyle discrimination” laws which prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their use of tobacco or other lawful products. And for many employers, limiting the potential labor pool by instituting a blanket hiring ban on a class of workers for a lifestyle issue isn’t feasible. Many fire and police departments and some companies are indeed banning smoking entirely—on or off the job—and refusing to hire smokers. Here’s how Jon Coppelman at Workers Comp Insider wrote about this.
The final word, it’s always advisable to look into your state laws to determine your best course of action.

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