Bank of America extends smoking cessation plan

EXCLUSIVE: Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) is to expand its smoking cessation programme after a successful pilot in May and June 2013.

The bank launched the pilot at its financial centre in the City, and will now roll out a second session in the City and at its Canary Wharf offices in January 2014.

Historically, the bank, which has 8,000 UK employees, included a smoking cessation stand at its various benefits fairs, but made the decision to take this one step further for staff.

Jay Butler, health and wellbeing manager UK at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said:  “In keeping with our health and wellbeing initiatives and programmes, we wanted to do something a bit more proactive.”

The pilot session, which was attended by 26 employees, began with an introductory session in May with specialists from St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the London School of Medicine.

It was followed by a seven-week programme, which had 15 participants. Butler added: “Those 15 people continued to attend each of the sessions right through to week seven, completed the programme and have not smoked since. We’ve been delighted by the engagement that’s been shown.”

During the programme, employees were paired with buddies for extra support. They also had access to BAML’s onsite occupational health centre for further support and queries.

“The support within that group was fantastic,” said Butler. “We had some really excellent feedback from the participants.”

Employees who participated in the pilot programme will act as advocates for the January 2014 roll out.

BAML conducts an annual health and wellbeing survey to identify what information and programmes employees would like to see around their health. It focuses on four different wellbeing pillars: nutrition, activity, health and resilience.

“The feedback that we receive builds into other areas, such as diet and exercise,” says Butler. “It is part of a wider suite of programmes, initiatives and interventions that we operate.”

The smoking cessation sessions are communicated via the bank’s quarterly health and wellbeing newsletters, followed by targeted site-specific communications.

Butler added: “The engagement that we got from the participants was key. It was really key for us to ensure we were supporting them through the initial seven weeks, but once that finished, that they were still getting updates and motivational emails as well.”