Why Should People Quit Smoking at Work?

A look into personal and professional benefits of reducing cigarette smoking in the workplace. Plus, a surprising explanation of how easy it can be to stop smoking! New insight into making the process easier here.

minute read

Where There’s Smoke There’s…Reduced Productivity in the Workplace

Cigarette smoking has been identified as the single most preventable cause of both morbidity and premature death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths.

In 2016, more than 15 of every 100 U.S. adults aged 18 years or older (15.5%) currently smoked cigarettes, meaning that an estimated 37.8 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes. Additionally, more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and the list goes on.1

The number of current smokers has declined from 20.9% (nearly 21 of every 100 adults) in 2005 to 15.5% (more than 15 of every 100 adults) in 2016, however, current smoking prevalence did not change significantly during 2015-2016.

Who is More Likely to Smoke?

Even though the number of adults who smoke cigarettes in the United States is down in general, there are certain populations who are still at a higher risk to start smoking. Looking at gender, while the numbers are pretty close, men are statistically more likely to be cigarette smokers than women (17.5% of adult men versus 13.5% of adult women).

When considering age as a factor, the highest rates for smoking are associated with those 45-64 (18%) and those 25-44 (17.6%), while those 65 years and older are the least likely to smoke.

Race can also play a factor. The statistics show that the populations with the highest rates of smoking are American Indians/Alaska Natives and (non-Hispanic) mixed-race individuals (31.8% and 25.2%, respectively), while whites and blacks are in the middle range (16.6% and 16.5%, respectively), and Hispanics and Asians are at the low end of the range (10.7% and 9%, respectively).

Addiction (alcohol and drug abuse) is one of the biggest predictive factors for cigarette smoking. This fact is reflected in the astronomically higher rates for smoking among addiction treatment populations as compared to the general public. In some instances, the rates for smoking among addiction treatment populations are more than triple the rates for the general public. Add to this the fact that adults who experience serious psychological distress are more likely to become smokers, and it’s clear that this demographic is at the highest risk for smoking.

Smoking and its Impact on the Workplace

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that smoking costs American companies approximately $300 billion in health expenses and lost productivity. This means that, on average, smokers cost their employers nearly $6,000 a year more than staff who don’t smoke, according to a recent study in the journal Tobacco Control.

Many studies have shown that smokers cost the healthcare system more and that they cost health insurers more. Because many companies self-insure – meaning they pay for healthcare costs even if a health insurance company manages the benefits for them – that means smokers cost their employers more.

The costs attributable to smoking are particularly important to employers. Besides the increase in medical costs which can be attributable to smoking, companies who employ smokers face additional, indirect costs as well. These include impacts on workplace absenteeism and productivity.

A number of studies have shown that employees who smoke report considerably higher rates of absenteeism, accidents and injuries than employees who never smoke. Absenteeism, however, is just a small piece of the indirect burden that smoking employees represent for companies. In addition to the time lost as a result of illness or injury, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that smokers are also less productive on the job.

What is really surprising to most is just how much less productive smokers can be. While almost all employees are unproductive some of the time and in one way or another, research shows that smoking negatively impacts productivity separately and apart from lost work time due to smoking breaks and absenteeism.

This is because nicotine is a powerfully addictive drug, and although a cigarette may satisfy a smoker’s need for nicotine, the effect wears off quickly. Within 30 minutes of finishing off a cigarette, the smoker may already begin to feel the symptoms of both physical and psychological withdrawal. Indeed, much of what a smoker perceives to be the calming and elucidating effect of smoking is actually relief from their acute withdrawal symptoms.

The Easiest Addiction to Treat

Getting smokers to quit may not be as daunting a task as it seems when looking at the numbers. Studies have shown that as smokers have more opportunities and more resources to quit, they are much more likely to utilize these resources to kick the habit.

In fact, many smokers will admit that they want to quit, but doing so can be quite difficult. The reality is that most cigarette smokers who try to quit on their own take, on average, six to nine attempts before they are successful. It’s for these reasons and more that Enterhealth, a Dallas-based drug and alcohol addiction treatment company, has been offering the latest smoking cessation treatments as a part of their standard rehabilitation regimen for over 10 years. These effective treatment techniques are found in both their inpatient facility, Enterhealth Ranch (located in Van Alstyne), as well as their Outpatient Center of Excellence (located in the Park Cities neighborhood of Dallas).

Now, in an effort to extend their reach beyond just patients who come for drug and alcohol addiction treatment services, Enterhealth is also offering these services to individuals and, importantly, companies that want to give employees an extra resource to help them finally kick the habit.

The treatment, which involves a 12-week program, is typically conducted over Enterhealth’s secure online telehealth portal, Enterhealth Connect (although in-person sessions can be arranged). These teleservices sessions (using online video) start with medical interviews and assessments with board-certified M.D.s and addiction-trained therapists who then tailor the smoking cessation program to each individual in order to reduce the cravings, anxiety, depression and weight gain which often accompany quitting smoking.

By conducting the initial assessment, both a doctor and therapist are able to first determine if there are any underlying physical or psychological issues, then they are able to select the right science-based medications and therapies to make it as easy as possible for that patient to stop smoking. Patients who have used the online service find it not only very effective but also very convenient, as they can participate in all of the sessions from a location of their choosing without have to use any of their time for transportation to and from the session.

Successful Smoking Cessation Helps More Than Just the Individual

It’s no surprise that quitting smoking can improve your health in myriad ways. The obvious benefits are the decreased risks for heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer. But there are less obvious ones as well. People who quit smoking report that their sense of smell and taste “return” after quitting, and it can also clear up blemishes and halt damage to your skin (especially the face). Quitting smoking can also lower the chances of men developing erectile dysfunction and improve the chances of having a healthy sex life.

The benefits don’t stop there, and the advantages for companies are also substantial. The aforementioned study in the journal Tobacco Control provides several tangible benefits that are attractive to companies, including: fewer instances of sick leave, reduced absenteeism, increased productivity, and, most importantly, higher levels of satisfaction with life (i.e., happier people!).

If you or a loved one would like to quit smoking, don’t wait, reach out and contact the experts at Enterhealth today.

Reference Sources:
1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2018 June 20].
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Current Cigarette Smoking Among Adults—United States, 2016. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2018;67(2):53-9 [accessed 2018 June 20].
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. State Tobacco Activities Tracking & Evaluation (STATE) System. Map of Current Cigarette Use Among Adults (Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System) 2016 [accessed 2018 June 20].
4. Huebsch, R. (2016, October 26). Negative Impact of Smokers in the Workplace. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-impact-smokers-workplace-21811.html
5. Halpern, M. T., Shikiar, R., Rentz, A. M., & Khan, Z. M. (2001, September 01). Impact of smoking status on workplace absenteeism and productivity. Retrieved June 20, 2018, from http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/10/3/233
6. Guydish, J., Passalacqua, E., Tajima, B., Chan, M., Chun, J., & Bostrom, A. (2011, June). Retrieved June 20, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3103720/
7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014 [accessed 2017 Nov 6].
8. Xu X, Bishop EE, Kennedy SM, Simpson SA, Pechacek TF. Annual Healthcare Spending Attributable to Cigarette Smoking: An Update. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2014;48(3):326–33 [accessed 2017 Nov 6].
9. Berman, M., Crane, R., Seiber, E., & Munur, M. (2013, May 25). Estimating the cost of a smoking employee. Retrieved June 21, 2018, from http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2013/05/25/tobaccocontrol-2012-050888.short
About the author
Dr. Urschel is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Strategist for Enterhealth, one of the finest residential and outpatient treatment programs in the nation. Known as one of the country's foremost authorities on substance abuse and addiction, Dr. Harold Urschel is the author of the New York Times best seller, “Healing the Addicted Brain.” He is a coveted speaker on substance abuse and the latest treatments of the chronic brain disease of addiction on both the local and national stage.
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