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Tobacco use is a persistent addiction that’s difficult for many people to break. However, since 2002, there have been more former smokers than current smokers, meaning more people are quitting and fewer people are starting.
The majority of smokers want to quit, but only one-third get adequate support to do so. Workplace smoking cessation programs provide employees with the professional quit smoking help they need to stop for good.
As part of an employee wellness program, smoking cessation plans make financial and social sense. According to the American Lung Association, employers can save nearly $6,000 annually for every employee who stops smoking. This guide to smoking cessation programs for employers covers how these programs work and provides tips on how to implement them in your workplace.
Health Costs of Smoking
Cigarette smoking and other types of tobacco use incur a serious cost on individuals, families, workplaces, and the community at large. For tobacco users, the short and long-term health effects are severe, which is why helping employees quit smoking is important.
Below are some of the must-know facts and statistics about tobacco use:
- Smoking causes a variety of lung diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema, and chronic bronchitis.
- Every year, 480,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. For every person who dies from smoking, 30 more live with one of the above chronic illnesses.
- Worldwide, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.
- Smoking increases a person’s risk of other diseases, such as tuberculosis, eye diseases, and autoimmune diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis.
In the U.S., smoking has a financial cost of more than $300 billion per year in direct medical costs, as well as in lost productivity, premature deaths, and exposure to secondhand smoke.
What Are Smoking Cessation Programs?
Smoking cessation programs are workplace initiatives that encourage, support, and facilitate employees in reducing their tobacco consumption and ceasing use altogether.
The aim of a smoking cessation program is to increase the likelihood that an employee will quit smoking successfully and permanently. These programs use either incentives, penalties, or a combination of both to help employees tie their smoking habits to certain positive or negative outcomes.
The types of support and treatment that people receive while going through quit smoking workplace programs include:
- Smoking cessation drugs, such as a patch, gum, or lozenges to reduce cravings
- Counseling, including approaches like addiction support and cognitive behavioral therapy
- Other personalized treatments tailored to the individual’s unique characteristics
Smoking cessation experts say that the combination of counseling and medications gives someone the strongest chance of quitting smoking for good.
Benefits of Quitting Smoking Programs
Professional workplace smoking cessation programs are designed to help participants get clear on their motivations for quitting, whether those reasons are health, social, or financial. Programs are set up so that participants can track the triggers of their cravings and smoking patterns, ultimately leading to successful smoking cessation.
For smoking cessation programs to be effective, they need to:
- Provide people with complete information about the effects of smoking and the realities of quitting
- Use clinically proven smoking cessation medications
- Offer individualized support
- Ensure the timing of smoking cessation is right in a person’s life (for example, not during a period of grief, transition, or instability)
When tobacco cessation programs are effective, participants can experience the benefits of quitting smoking such as:
- Improved physical health and fitness, self-esteem, and overall well-being
- Reduced symptoms of lung diseases and respiratory issues
- Lowered risk of chronic disease, like heart disease, stroke, and cancer
- Better financial savings on tobacco products, healthcare costs, and lost productive time
According to the CDC, within 3-6 years after quitting smoking, a person’s risk of heart disease drops by half. Further, within 5-10 years, the risk of cancer and stroke drops by half as well. Even if someone has smoked for decades, quitting heavy tobacco use is always beneficial for someone’s quality of life.
How to Help Employees Quit Smoking
It’s important for employers to understand that quitting smoking is a highly personal decision that must be made by the employee. However, there are steps that organizations can take to support employees on their own timeline for quitting smoking.
The following are some of the recommended ways for employers to help their workers with their smoking cessation goals.
1. Understand Smoking Cessation Motives
Employers should strive to understand each employee and their personal motivation for quitting. Help employees feel that they are valued regardless of their tobacco use and avoid judgment and criticism.
2. Offer Smoking Cessation Tools
Employees can increase their chances of breaking their habit when they have access to the right tools and tips for quitting smoking. Smoking diaries help people record their habits, identify patterns in their cravings, and make informed changes to their behavior.
3. Cover Medication for Quitting Smoking
Quitting smoking products are critical to a person’s smoking cessation plan. Employers can provide reimbursements or partial coverage on nicotine replacement products like patches or inhalers. Under a workplace drug plan, employers can also provide coverage for two types of non-nicotine prescription medications that are currently FDA-approved — Chantix and Zyban.
4. Offer Financial Incentives
For some employees, financial motivations may improve their chances of success. In a well-known research study, GE employees were over three times more likely to quit smoking when they were financially incentivized. In the 2004 study, employees were offered up to $750 in financial incentives to quit smoking, but the ideal amount may vary among groups and in modern times.
5. Foster Support and Encouragement
Successful smoking cessation requires ongoing support from a person’s community, including their workplace. As part of an employee smoking cessation program, organizations should provide motivational encouragement, including stories, testimonies, and videos of others who have quit.
Seeing the outcomes and improvements in other people’s quality of life can help keep participants focused on what’s possible.
Smoking Cessation and Employee Wellness Programs
If you have employees who want to quit or are struggling to quit smoking, consider implementing a workplace smoking cessation program.
Smoking cessation programs can be a valuable component of an overall employee wellness program. When employees have personalized tools that help them improve their well-being, they feel more engaged and motivated, leading to better productivity and performance.
Support your employees on their wellness journey with the Wellics wellness platform. With Wellics, you can give your employees the tools they need to take charge of their personal wellness journeys. Users can set custom metrics, such as tobacco use, and use the wellics platform to keep track of their smoking habits. Over time, employees become more aware of their tobacco use patterns, leading to a higher chance of smoking cessation success. Learn more about how the Wellics wellness platform can work for your employees.
Originally published May 18, 2022 - 7:52 AM, updated November 21, 2023