Smokers Cost Employers Through Absenteeism
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, workers who smoke are absent from work 2.3 more days each year than their nonsmoking co-workers.
Smoking increases the risk of short-term illness, which leads to missed days of work. Even low-level smokers who smoke one cigarette a day are at increased risk of bronchitis, pneumonia, and the flu, as well anxiety and depression. Smokers are also at high risk of developing chronic illnesses, which result in even more missed days of work.
The cost of the missed days depends on the salary of the employee. However, the Ohio State University study estimates the cost to average $517 per year for each smoker. This figure doesn’t take into account the cost of employees working through sickness, or their loss of productivity through presenteeism.
Smokers Cost Employers More Than $3,000 Per Year Through Presenteeism
Presenteeism describes employees who are present in the workplace but working at a low level of productivity. For employees who smoke, it can be caused by the toll of chronic illness, the distraction of their nicotine addiction, and time away from productive work for smoking breaks. For example, smoking breaks cost $3,077 per smoker per year, according to the Ohio State University Study. And nicotine addiction costs employers an average of $462 per year for each smoker.
Smokers Cost Employers More Than $2,000 Per Year In Increased Medical Costs
Based on information from self-insured employers, the Ohio State University study estimates medical costs for smokers are $2,056 more than for nonsmoking employees.
These costs increase the overall cost of the pool for companies who are not self-insured – and even with surcharges for smokers, these costs are often impossible to offset entirely.
Smokers are also at high risk of developing severe chronic and life-threatening diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and lung and other cancers. These long-term illnesses are expensive to treat. Treatment for someone diagnosed with COPD, for example, costs an average of $4,000 per year.
The best way to reduce employee medical expenses – as well as the indirect costs of smoking – is to encourage employees to quit smoking and offer them a proven program that helps them do it.
The Financial Benefits of Employer-Supported Smoking Cessation Programs
The benefits of quitting smoking are well documented: within 12 months of quitting, the risk of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions is significantly reduced. This in turn reduces employer medical costs.
The indirect savings through lower absenteeism and higher productivity make company-supported smoking cessation programs cost-effective investments. In fact, smokers who successfully quit become as productive as co-workers who never smoked at all.
The Key Elements of a Successful Smoking Cessation Program
Quitting smoking can be very challenging: nearly half of smokers try to quit each year, but only about 5% of them will be successful. For most smokers, motivation just isn’t enough for them to overcome their addiction. Employers who provide support through the quitting process increase the chances of success and lessen the temporary drain on productivity during the quit process.
A successful, employer-supported quit program needs three important elements:
MeYou Health has created one of the most extensively studied online behavior interventions that helps people quit smoking. QuitNet® is the internet’s longest-running smoking cessation program, and it is an affordable, turn-key option for employers who want to support employees on their journey to becoming smoke-free. The QuitNet app allows employees to carry their coach and support system wherever they go for real-time, 24/7 encouragement.
All in all, an employee who smokes costs your company more than $6,000 per year in direct and indirect costs.
If you want to avoid this expense (and make your employees healthier and more productive), the most successful and cost-effective way is to offer a proven path to quitting.
About the Author:
Eliz Greene shares humorous stories and powerful insights about stress, balance, and productivity in the workplace from her research, through writings and keynote presentations. Eliz is a heart-attack survivor dedicated to leading others down a path to success and a healthy life, and resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her twin girls.