The negative health impacts of cigarette smoking are widely documented. Smoking can damage your immune system and heighten the risk of stroke, heart attack, damaged blood vessels, type 2 diabetes, and cancer in most parts of the body, especially the lungs. Additionally, the American Cancer Society explains that cigarettes cause a loss of 2 million years of life and $21 billion in earnings annually due to the cancer deaths associated with smoking.
Aside from the aforementioned losses in earnings, smoking can directly impact the workplace by lowering productivity and putting the health of non-smoking workers at risk. Fortunately, business leaders can reduce the negative health impacts of smoking with smoking cessation initiatives. Here’s how you can make changes that will benefit your employees’ health and productivity—and, in the long run, your business.
Why does your company need a smoking cessation program?
Although the link is not immediately apparent, studies have shown that cigarette smoking can negatively affect workplace productivity. A 2022 study on the ‘Cost of Cigarette Smoking’ found that morbidity-related productivity losses totaled $184.9 billion in the US. The causes for these losses included absenteeism, presenteeism, household productivity, and the inability to work due to health issues in an individual caused by cigarette smoking.
Smoking can also compromise the health of non-smoking employees. A study from Yale University found that thirdhand smoke, which clings onto clothes or is left as residue on surfaces, can contaminate environments that smokers enter. This exposes non-smoking individuals to the equivalent of secondhand smoke emitted by 1 to 10 cigarettes, along with all the hazardous chemical compounds and the health risks that come with it. So when there are smokers in your office, even when they step out to have a cigarette, they may still be putting their coworkers’ health at risk.
To reduce these threats to health and productivity in the workplace, employers should provide employees with the resources to empower smoking cessation. Because the process may be difficult and costly, it’s integral that they are provided with the proper guidance and support. Here’s what you can do in your own business.
How can you craft a good smoking cessation program?
Partner with smoking cessation professionals
One of the best ways to help employees quit smoking is by including smoking cessation programs in your health plan. These programs include several seminars that help set expectations and emphasize the importance of quitting. Here, they will be oriented on the health impacts of smoking and the process for quitting.
Afterward, your employees may be guided through using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). NRT products are smokeless nicotine alternatives that come in varying dosages. As the individual progresses throughout their smoking cessation, they use lower dosages to reduce their nicotine intake.
Since smoking cessation is not an easy journey, your workplace smoking cessation program can also provide employees with various resources to support them. These may involve ways to connect them with quitlines, support groups, or even personalized counseling. Your program can also hold seminars where clients can share tips for managing stress and increasing accountability by seeking support from their loved ones. With such programs, you can create a workplace environment that’s conducive to quitting.
Implement smoke-free policies
An effective smoke-free policy reduces the ease of smoking, therefore discouraging employees from continuing the habit. You can start by placing strict restrictions on smoking areas. Determine which areas smokers can use, and ensure that they are outside and far away enough to not affect non-smokers in any way.
If your employees choose to embark on a cessation journey, you can encourage them to use non-disruptive NRT products, like nicotine pouches and inhalers, in the workplace. Nicotine pouches are small, discreet bags tucked between the gums and upper lip. They can also be used indoors, with the VELO nicotine pouches that are sold on Prilla showing how these NRTs don’t produce smoke or require a user to spit them out. Nicotine inhalers are also appropriate for smoke-free policies. Employees can use it to inhale similar to how they would with an e-cigarette, but it’s actually a heat- and vaporless device that administers medicine into your system. The Voke nicotine inhaler can be helpful since it provides familiarity by recreating the hands-to-mouth motion of cigarette smoking.
Once you’ve formulated your smoke-free policies, discuss who these policies affect, especially if they extend to customers or building staff. You can also indicate the consequences of noncompliance and the timetable for implementing these policies. By planning these policies well and effectively communicating their implementation timelines, you can better encourage employees to quit smoking.
Reduce stressors in the workplace
Stress can be one of the biggest triggers for smokers. As such, it’s essential to craft a healthy workplace environment that may stop them from picking up another cigarette.
Our article on ‘7 Ways Business Owners Can Manage Stress’ shares tips on how professionals can watch out for their mental health. These include a good work-life balance, exercise, eating well, and forming strong personal relationships — all of which employers can promote to help workers. You can also promote a good work-life balance by encouraging employees to take leaves or allowing flexible work arrangements like hybrid or flexitime work setups. Make health easier by providing gym memberships or serving healthy food in the cafeteria. Lastly, encourage strong relationships in the workplace by communicating frequently and sincerely, holding teambuilding activities or informal hangout events, and providing healthy opportunities for collaboration at work.
By nurturing a healthy workplace environment, you can help reduce stressors in your employees’ lives, lowering their need for cigarettes.
Smoking can be detrimental to both health and productivity. By understanding how to craft a good workplace smoking cessation program, you can make your workplace a healthier environment for employees.