Cigarette smoking is, without a doubt, an unhealthy habit that poses serious health risks to the smoker and the people around them. For employees in a workplace, especially, cigarette smoking can negatively affect more than health. In a Japanese study on the impact of occupational stress on smoking intensity, researchers found that smokers who do not smoke at home still smoke in the workplace as part of "peer smoking." Smokers are also associated with higher occupational stressors than non-smokers: the greater the stress in the workplace, the higher the intensity of smoking.
Of course, smoking rates may also be high due to the addictive quality of the habit. Nicotine, the substance contained in cigarettes, is a stimulant that provides a dopamine boost. This may explain why employees who experience more significant workplace stress tend to smoke more. Notably, nicotine stays in your system for a long time.
Although the substance eventually gets broken down by the liver into several other components, most tests can detect it for at least three days after use, and it builds up in the body over the years. Accidentally ingesting a large amount of nicotine may get you sick. In such cases, a nicotine test can help doctors determine the cause of the illness to offer appropriate treatment.
Beyond its effects on the body, however, nicotine and cigarette smoking can also negatively impact an employee's work performance. In this post, we'll look at how to implement a smoking cessation program in the workplace to curb the negative effects of cigarettes and nicotine at work:
The impact of smoking on productivity
As mentioned above, smoking poses harmful health risks and can cause or exacerbate illnesses. In a workplace setting, this may lead to increased sick leaves and absenteeism, dampening productivity. A study on the impact of heavy smoking on workplace presenteeism found that companies that encourage employees to receive treatments for reduction of smoking can benefit from greater productivity.
The study also notes that workplaces that permit smoking make it more difficult for employees who are smokers to quit and easier for them to become nicotine-dependent. This adds to the burden of poor health and company costs. Poor health among employees also affects their job performance while increasing the tendency for health risks such as hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, poor nutrition, obesity, and even depression.
Researchers also cite an annual cost ranging from $3,077 to $4,102 due to lost productivity caused by unsanctioned smoke breaks. Even if smokers smoke only two cigarettes outside of sanctioned daily breaks, they still spend, on average, 15 minutes per cigarette. Below, we'll look at some of the ways you can implement an effective smoking cessation program:
Adopt smoke-free workplace policies
One of the best ways to reduce smoking in the workplace is by implementing a smoke-free workplace. This would significantly reduce the use of cigarettes in your office or establishment, along with other electric derivations such as vapes and electrically heated tobacco products. According to a WHO feature on expanding smoke-free spaces in Cape Town, South Africa, the city recently announced the introduction of new smoke-free spaces. This announcement amended a local workplace policy to ensure fewer places to smoke and purchase cigarettes within all city-owned buildings.
Creating a smoke-free environment for your employees can help encourage smoking cessation and protect the health of both smokers and non-smokers in the workplace. A smoke-free workplace can also lead to reduced littering and environmental damage.
Offer smoking cessation resources
Introducing health and smoking cessation workshops or seminars to raise awareness can help smokers quit. Launching wellness initiatives where you provide and promote smoking cessation products such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products — nicotine gums, patches, and pouches — to your employees can also reduce cigarette cravings in and out of the workplace. These NRT products help smokers reduce tobacco and nicotine intake, as the reduced nicotine dose allows users to avoid nicotine withdrawal symptoms and quit smoking eventually.
Another effective way to support employees is by inquiring with your health insurance provider to see if your employees have access to tobacco cessation treatments. Case in point, the American Lung Association notes that the Affordable Care Act and other federal laws and rules require most health insurance plans in the US to cover tobacco cessation treatments to an extent. This may include individual, group, or phone counseling sessions, as well as 90 days of all FDA-approved smoking cessation medications.
Encourage employee participation
Last but not least, reducing smoking in the workplace is a team effort. If leaders, managers, or supervisors are also smokers, it's essential for them to lead by example and not encourage smoking in the workplace or during work hours so other employees don't feel pressured or tempted.
In our previous post on the importance of boosting staff morale, we highlight how a company-wide wellness program is an investment in the physical and mental well-being of your staff. Offering bespoke awards or rewards for successful smoking cessation in the workplace can also boost smoker employees' morale. Small prizes such as gift cards, extra vacation time, or other work perks can help motivate employees to participate in the smoking cessation program and eventually quit their smoking habit.