This past weekend Mrs. Stein and I tried something new to us, Glamping. Glamping is a mix of glamour and camping and describes a style of camping with amenities not usually a part of traditional camping. Mrs. Stein had recently made the decision to stop smoking and asked that we find a quiet stress free location to begin this transition. She needed to change her environment and reduce as many triggers as possible. We chose glamping for the seclusion it offered. Just the right amount of separation from normal society without too much roughing involved.
While reducing her stress was the goal, I quickly learned that offering sound, logical, reasonable cessation advice to a person who has just stopped smoking is much like attempting to baptize a cat and she was not nearly as appreciative as the cat in the metaphor.
While Mrs. Stein was doing this for personal reasons, it still made me think about the cost of smoking in the workplace. So like any HR blogger would do, I did a little research so I can share it with you here. I found many articles on the subject which mostly referenced an Ohio State University study (found here) which claims that companies pay almost $6,000 extra per year for each employee who smokes.
Before going much further, I feel it important to note that this information is being provided for informational purposes and not a condemnation of smokers in the workplace. Some of our most valuable employees are smokers and I would not trade them for the world. In no way am I suggesting this be addressed on an employee by employee basis, I am sure the cat metaphor above would still apply if this was attempted in the workplace. This information is being provided to help employers understand there is a real employer cost involved with smoking and that offering cessation assistance (even at a cost to the company) can be a good investment.
The costs listed in the study are broken down as an average of $517 per year for absenteeism, $462 for what they call presenteeism (present but less productive), $3,077 in smoke breaks and $2,056 in extra medical costs if the company is self insured. And it costs the smoker as well; the study states that smokers tend to have lower salaries than non-smokers by as much as 15.6% and some employers have actual policies of not hiring smokers.
Quitting smoking is very difficult. An article from the National Center for Biotechnology states that smokers try to quit only once every two to three years and only about 4-6% are successful. Successfully quitting usually involves multiple attempts, but eventually about half are able to quit permanently. About 1/3 of the people attempting to quit will seek treatment, which is actually a higher rate of treatment use than that for alcoholism or obesity.
Many times, employees who want to quit will seek, and in some cases require, treatment to quit. Employers who provide support will increase the chance of success. The website, meyouhealth.com , states that within 12 months of quitting the risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic conditions is significantly reduced, lowering the extra medical costs stated above. Workers who stop smoking will become as productive as co-workers who never smoked at all.
The site goes on to state that a successful, employer-supported cessation program should include three elements:
- Easy access to nicotine replacement therapy
- Active social support
This is obviously best served from a third party. Employers who want to help should research programs that offer assistance rather than develop or manage their own. This should be easily justified given the figures in the OSU study are in line with actual costs the employer may be experiencing.
It would also be wise to offer this help passively. The employer should let all employees know the program is available, but should allow the employee to make the initial approach. The sources used above all state that this data is for employees who want to quit.
Mrs. Stein is off to a good start. At times, she has vocalized some serious second thoughts throughout the weekend. And we both know this is very difficult. But overall, I am very proud of the effort she is making.
I also must say that our hosts, Christy and Bryan did a great job making sure we were comfortable and that we had everything we needed. I would highly recommend the experience if you are considering something like this. Learn more about them and the glamping experience at www.canopyridge.com .