This month’s News You Can Use is short, sweet and straight to the point on how smoking is expensive for employers!

An article produced by Nancy Shute from the National Public Radio-Health website featured the results of a recent study conducted in November 2012 entitled “Estimating the cost of a smoking employee.”

The results were astonishing: Smoking is still a big problem in our society and worksites, not only for the smoker themselves but also for their employer.

Cost of a smoker

  • The general estimate of the cost for smoking nationwide is $193 billion a year.
  • The cost to employ a smoker each year is estimated to be around $5,800.
  • Of that $5,800 figure, $3,077 is due to estimated lost work for smoking breaks. Smokers generally take five breaks in one day that last 15 minutes each.
  • Sick days are estimated to cost $517 per smoker.
  • Lower productivity due to nicotine withdrawal is roughly $462 per worker.

What is an employer to do?

Employers are constantly looking to cut costs, and this seems like a perfect cost to cut to benefit the employees, improve productivity and reduce claim charges. Here are a couple of noted strategies employers are pursuing:

  • No longer hiring smokers. The Cleveland Clinic tops the list of hospitals and clinics taking this approach. However, many states are now making it illegal to discriminate against smokers in the hiring process.
  • Using value-based benefit design. Employers are implementing programs that charge higher health insurance premiums to employees who smoke. Other benefits include offering smoker cessation medications, services and resources to help smokers quit.
  • Banning smoking. Employers create smoking bans that prohibit tobacco use entirely anywhere on the company grounds.