Encouraging your employees to quit smoking

Wednesday 9 March marks national No Smoking Day 2016. Are you doing anything to promote it? Nearly 10 years after the smoking ban was first introduced in England and Wales, do you still see employees’ smoking habits as your concern – or is it more ‘out of sight out of mind’?

I was reading an article recently in Employee Benefits magazine, which stated that taking just one cigarette break in the morning and one in the afternoon, would amount to almost four weeks off work. And then, of course, there’s time off work for smoke-related illness, from smoker’s coughs” to mouth and lung cancer. The cost to the employer for a smoking employee really mounts up, and can include increased absence and healthcare benefits, reduced productivity, and reduced life expectancy,

At our recent seminar with the HCA, Counting the Cost of Cancer in the Workplace, I noted that 352,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in the UK each year, with over 42% of these being preventable by making lifestyle changes*. As you can see from the chart below, being smoke free is by far cited as the most effective lifestyle choice to help prevent cancer.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 18.10.13

So what can you, as an employer, do to help encourage a smoke-free workforce? How can you encourage a healthier lifestyle amongst your employees?

According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre’s statistics, there are still more adult smokers (20%) in the UK than those who use the gym (12%). So while you may be giving your smoking employees extra time off work, how about allowing lunchtime gym goers an extra 20 minutes a couple of times a week?

Or, if your employees need something more personalised, get them to download the Smoking Time Machine app to see what the effects of smoking might have on their appearance. Alternatively, you could consider setting competitions with incentives and prizes for those who pledge to successfully quit.

There are also lots of ideas on the British Heart Foundation’s No Smoking Day website. It doesn’t just have to be for one day either, we recommend making smoking cessation part of a coordinated workplace wellbeing programme.

Your employees are your most valuable asset, and with one in two of us likely to develop cancer in our lifetimes*, it makes sense to make every effort to reduce the risk in your workforce.

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If you need some help with your workplace wellbeing programme, please get in touch.

*Source: Cancer Research UK February 2016