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“There are many reasons to become a smoke-free workplace.”
The information I put together in this section will help you make the company wide decision to go smoke free,
both in the interest of your employees and the interest of your business.
There are many benefits to both employees and employers that accrue from having a smoke-free workplace. Here are a just few:
Benefits to the employees
A smoke-free environment helps to create a safe and healthful workplace.
A carefully planned and implemented effort by the employer to address the effects of smoking on employees’ health shows that the company cares.
Workers who are bothered by smoke will not be exposed to it at the workplace.
Smokers appreciate a clear company policy about smoking at work.
Managers are relieved when a process for handling smoking in the workplace is clearly defined.
Benefits to the employer
A smoke-free environment helps to create a safe, healthful workplace.
Direct health care costs to the company may be reduced.
Maintenance costs go down when smoke, matches, and cigarette butts are eliminated from facilities.
Without smoke in the environment, office equipment, carpets, and furniture last longer.
It may be possible to negotiate lower health, life, and disability insurance coverage for your company as employee smoking is reduced.
The risk of fires is lower.
There are other ways that your business may benefit from having a smoke-free workplace.
Support for workplace policies – As the public has become more aware of the risks associated with exposure to secondhand smoke, support for smoke-free policies has steadily increased. According to Gallup polls, Americans not only know about the risks posed by secondhand smoke, but also favor efforts to reduce exposure to it. The percentage of Americans who favor some type of restriction on workplace smoking increased from 81% in 1983 to 94% in 1992.
Increased employee morale – adopting a smoke-free policy sends a clear message to your employees and the community: we care about the health and safety of our employees. The employer’s concern for the health of employees is especially clear in the case of employees who have conditions that make them vulnerable to secondhand smoke, like employees who are pregnant, have heart disease, or have breathing problems. Offering quitting support for smoking employees who want to quit sends a straightforward message that the company cares about all employees, including smokers.
Increased productivity – a smoke-free workplace enhances productivity by reducing the health effects of secondhand smoke on nonsmokers, and by reducing smoking-related absenteeism among smokers who are motivated to quit as a result of the smoke-free policy.
Reduced medical costs – A smoker who quits could save his or her employer an estimated $1,429 in excess illness costs each year. Persons who quit smoking before age 65 are estimated to save from 45% to 67% of the lifetime excess medical costs of persons who continue to smoke.
Improved corporate image – Many organizations implement smoke-free policies in part to influence consumers’ opinions of the company. With nonsmokers accounting for about 75% of adult consumers of goods and services, a company’s decision to go smoke-free can influence their appeal to consumers in the marketplace. Adopting a smoke-free workplace policy can also improve a company’s corporate image in hiring as well – companies that demonstrate concern for the health and wellbeing of their employees are more likely to be able to recruit and retain high-quality employees.
Smoke-free policies reduce employee smoking. Here’s proof:
The University of California School of Medicine determined in a 1991 study that smoking employees consumed 45 fewer packs of cigarettes per year if they worked in a smoke-free workplace.
UCSM’s study also determined that smoke-free workplaces had significantly fewer regular smokers than workplaces that allowed smoking (13.7% compared to 20.6%)
In a 1994 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, smokers who worked in smoke-free workplaces reduced their total smoking on average by 15%, or one pack a week.
Following the implementation of a smoke-free policy, the Johns Hopkins Hospital found a 20% reduction in the number of cigarettes smokers smoked per day, and a 51% reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked during work hours. They also found there was a 25% reduction in the number of employees that smoked.
Within a year after the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans implemented a smoke-free policy, the proportion of employees who smoked had dropped from 22% to 14%, and of those who continued to smoke, 81% smoked fewer than eight cigarettes per day.
Following the implementation of a smoke-free policy at New England Deaconess Hospital, 26% of smoking employees quit smoking. A third of those employees who continued to smoke reduced their cigarette consumption.
In the first year after the Harvard School of Public Health adopted a smoke-free policy, 27% of their smoking employees had quit smoking.
Within 20 months after the New England Telephone Company adopted a smoke-free policy, 21% of their smoking employees had quit, compared with a normal annual quit rate in similar population groups of 2%-5%. 42% of the successful quitters attributed their quitting to the company’s smoke-free policy.
Employee smoking results in significant direct and indirect costs to employers. Reducing the number of employees who smoke can save your company a lot of money!
Here are just a few of the employer costs increased by employee smoking:
Health insurance costs and claims
Life insurance costs and claims
Air cooling, heating, and ventilation costs
Recruitment and retraining costs resulting from loss of employees to smoking-related death and disability
Worker’s compensation payments and occupational health awards
Accidents and fires (plus related insurance costs)
Property damage (plus related insurance costs)
Smoke pollution (leading to increased cleaning and maintenance costs)
Illness and discomfort among nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke
Things you should know about smoking and your bottom line:
The impact that smoking has on health, life, fire, and property is often reflected in the response made by insurance underwriters. Dozens of insurance companies offer substantial discounts on life, disability, and medical insurance policies for nonsmokers.
CNA recently offered $500,000 in life insurance to 30-year-old nonsmokers for $425. The cost of the same coverage for smokers is more than twice that amount: $935!1 Having a smoke-free workplace may enable you to negotiate lower fire and property insurance premiums with your insurance company.
Smoking causes millions of dollars damage due to fires every year. In 1996, the total property and contact losses for fires caused by smoking was over $10.6 million! Between the years of 1993 and 1996, the National Fire Protection Association reported $391 million in direct property damage caused by smoking-related fires.1 Eliminating smoking in your workplace can greatly reduce your risk of incurring property damage costs related to fires.
When the Union Camp Corporation evaluated the health costs of 700 of their employees in 1992, they discovered that nonsmoking employees cost the company $462 less in health care costs than smoking employees. Among 400 production employees for whom there was absenteeism data, each nonsmoker saved the company $284 of sick pay!1
A study of 2,500 postal employees published in the American Journal of Public Health found that the absentee rate for smokers was 33% higher than for nonsmokers.1
Smokers are absent from work 50% more than nonsmokers. They’re also 50% more likely to be hospitalized and have 15% higher disability rates.
Smokers miss more work than non-smokers due to sickness. A recent study of 300 booking clerks at a large U.S. airline found that smokers are absent from work for sickness as many as 6.16 days per year on average, compared with 3.86 days for those who never smoke.
Employees who take four 10-minute smoking breaks a day actually work one month less per year than workers who don’t take smoking breaks.
Smoking employees cost your company an average of $1,429 per smoker per year in increased health care costs over nonsmoking employees (not to mention the costs of lost productivity and absenteeism). Offering your employees assistance in their quit-smoking efforts is a worthy investment. Implementing a smoking cessation program for your employees only costs on average $45 per employee per year. For every smoker at your company who became a nonsmoker, the company would save an average of $1,382 per employee!
$1,429 ?cost of tobacco use per employee
– $45 ?cost per employee of providing tobacco cessation in the workplace
$1,382 ?Amount saved per smoking employee who quits
Smokers cost far more than nonsmokers in insurance and hospital costs. As you can see from the graphs below, the costs per insurance claim for nonsmokers are far lower than for moderate and especially heavy smokers. Hospital inpatient costs for nonsmokers are also far lower than for smokers. Costs to employers
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