Workers who smoke can cost their employers thousands of dollars per year more than their non-smoking counterparts, new research has found.
The study found smoking to pose a substantial burden on employers through increased costs from lost productivity. The US researches say it would be in an employer’s best interest to support smoking cessation programs that facilitate quitting among employees.
“This highlights the need for support and services for quit attempters.”
The study, which took data from the 2013 US National Health and Wellness Survey, found current smokers incurred US$1,840 (A$2,371) more in indirect costs to the employer than those who quit more than 11 years earlier. Similarly, smokers cost US$1,560 ($A2,010) more than workers who quit between five to 10 years ago, and US$1,328 (A$1,711) more than those who quit four or fewer years ago.
This is not the first time that smokers and non-smokers in the workplace have been directly compared. Previous studies have found the risk of absenteeism in smokers to be 33 per cent higher than non-smokers, and 19 per cent higher than former smokers. However, researchers say 75 percent of the productivity loss relates to presenteeism and reduced performance.
“Current smokers exhibit worse health-related quality of life, physical inactivity, sleep impairment, pain, and inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables compared with non-smokers.”
Then why aren’t smoking cessation programs more common in the modern workplace? One theory is that many employers are hesitant to provide smoking cessation interventions because they feel the benefits to them are too long term, and are unlikely to outpace staff turnover.
However, the researchers refute this notion, and say the indirect costs for former smokers are similar, regardless of how long they had been smoke-free. In fact, once smokers have weathered the initial drop in productivity when they are trying to quit, long term gains can be realised within months.
“There is the potential for long-term gain in productivity among people who have quit smoking successfully, even within several months.”