On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

How Smoking Impacts the Bottom Line of Your Workplace

Smoking affects so many aspects of individual health, and when it comes to the workplace, smoking can affect the health of a company, too.

Employers lose nearly $6,000 per smoking employee every year, according to researchers at Ohio State University. Researchers identified four key areas where smoking affects an employer’s bottom line:

- Lost time because of smoke breaks: $3,077.
- Additional health insurance costs: $2,056.
- Extra absenteeism: $517.
- Reduced productivity because of nicotine addiction: $462.Did you know? More than 1 in 5 Oklahomans smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s higher than the national average of 1 in 6 adults.Those company losses add up quickly for Oklahoma organizations. For an Oklahoma employer with 100 workers, that translates to $126,600 lost each year.

All told, smoking accounts for $1.73 billion in productivity losses each year, according to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline. Annual health care costs directly related to the health effects of smoking amount to $1.62 billion. These estimates account for increased health care costs, higher absenteeism, work time spent on smoke breaks, higher life insurance costs, greater risk of occupational injuries, tobacco-related diseases and other factors.

Quitting tobacco benefits the body right away

"Employees have heard all the lectures, and they know all the reasons to quit," said Anissa Chadick, employee wellness manager for INTEGRIS. "So let's talk about the positive things that happen when you do decide to quit."

As soon as smokers make the decision to quit, the body begins to change rapidly.

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your blood pressure and heart rate drop.
  • 12 hours after quitting: Carbon monoxide and oxygen levels become normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Circulation improves and lung function increases.
  • 1 year after quitting: The risk of heart disease is cut in half.
  • 5 to 15 years after quitting: The risk of stroke is lowered to that of a non-smoker.
  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of heart disease and death is nearly the same as people who have never smoked.

"Quitting while you are younger will reduce your health risks more, however quitting at any age can give back years of life that would be lost by continuing to use tobacco," Chadick said. "Not to mention, food and drinks taste and smell much better, finances improve and you feel good about yourself."

Businesses can act to cut smoking losses

Employers can be proactive for the health of their employees and the health of their finances.

"Helping employees quit tobacco benefits them, but it also benefits your business," said Chadick. "Tobacco prevention and cessation efforts help reduce insurance rates and increase worker productivity. If you operate a business where tobacco use is still allowed by state law, making your business tobacco-free is a key step to helping your employees quit."

Working in a supportive environment can help smokers quit.

"People who feel supported are more likely to quit," Chadick said. "About 40 percent of tobacco users who quit say that support from others contributed to their success."

Chadick said employers should estimate six months to a year of planning and implementation of a tobacco-free workplace plan. She recommends these steps:

  1. Set up a task force to oversee the process.  Include top management and workers, as well as nonsmokers, smokers and former smokers.
  2. Gather information to educate the task force and, eventually, the entire workforce. Survey your workers about their knowledge and concerns so you can address them before your policy goes into effect.
  3. Write the policy. Keep it clean and simple. The more straightforward the policy is, the easier it is to understand and enforce. Set up an enforcement policy that is consistent with other personnel policies and disciplinary procedures. The number of allowed breaks should be addressed under your company’s general break policy and should apply to all workers, smokers and nonsmokers alike.
  4. Announce the policy several months in before the start date with a letter from the owner or CEO. Train managers on how to handle work or customer concerns, questions and infractions (if they occur). Educate workers about the reasons for the policy by using resources like paycheck inserts, posters and company newsletters.
  5. Offer help to workers who want to quit.  Plan in advance on how you will do this. "Providing assistance is the best way to make sure that we maximize the potential health benefits of quitting, and the cost savings for the individual and the organization," Chadick said.
  6. Get ready for the policy start date.  Post “no tobacco” signs, remove ashtrays and tobacco vending machines, and place receptacles for smoking materials at the designated distance outside entrances or remove receptacles entirely if you are adopting a tobacco-free campus policy. Host a kick-off event on the day the policy starts.
  7. Monitor the policy. Have a point person in top management who tracks how the policy is going. Managers should report questions, concerns, or infractions to this person.
  8. Want to know more? Use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a reliable resource.

Oklahoma organizations are working to support employees in tobacco-free workplaces

INTEGRIS adopted a tobacco-free policy several years ago, but the work didn't stop there. "Policies do not pass judgment on tobacco users nor does it mean workers who use tobacco are unwelcome," she said. "We also provided cessation assistance to tobacco users who tried to quit as a result of the policy and still do so today."

INTEGRIS developed the Tobacco Freedom program in partnership with the Oklahoma Hospital Association. The program is designed to help employees lead healthier and longer lives by ending their tobacco dependence, Chadick said.

"This assistance includes counseling support and tobacco treatment medications and nicotine replacement therapies to eligible INTEGRIS employees and their families," she said. "We also refer our employees and their family members to the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline."

Other Oklahoma organizations that are certified tobacco-free include Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, Dell, Love's Travel Stops corporate office, Tinker Air Force Base and OSU-OKC. According to Sandy Pantlik, senior director of marketing and communications at OSU-OKC, "Tobacco and vaping products have been banned at  OSU-OKC since 2008."

“When employees feel better -- and I include myself in that -- you also work better,” Pantlik said. “It reduces absenteeism and insurance costs, but overall, it just makes for a happier place to work.”

For more tips on how you or your business can be smoke free, check out these other blogs from I On Your Health:

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