An American Cancer Society report indicates that smokers who quit can expect to live as many as 10 years longer than those who continue to smoke. Furthermore, smokers who quit, regardless of age, live longer than people who continue to smoke and reduce their risk of lung cancer, heart disease and stroke.
According to Healthways, a disease management company, employees who smoke can increase costs by affecting absenteeism, productivity and insurance. On average, smokers are absent 50 percent more often than nonsmokers, which leads to lowered productivity and morale among nonsmoking employees who must work harder to compensate for the absences. Additionally, smokers incur higher insurance premiums and overall coverage costs. In fact, employers are paying about $3,400 extra for each employee who smokes.
With these facts in mind, and in honor of the Great American Smokeout, Healthways is providing employers with tools to motivate their employees to stop smoking for a day. Through its QuitNet smoking cessation program, Healthways has developed a series of resources to help companies create a tobacco-free workplace. Beginning Nov. 18, employers can provide their work force with creative ideas to help them begin the process to quit smoking, including:
- Request that tobacco users make a pledge to not use tobacco for the day. Put the money they would have spent on tobacco that day into a pool that the employer will match and donate to a local health-related charity.
- Offer free “cold turkey” sandwiches at lunchtime to tobacco users who turn in at least a half pack of tobacco product
- Set up Great American Smokeout stations. Those who are quitting for the day can trade their tobacco products for chewing gum, carrot sticks, popcorn, mineral water, sunflower seeds or other snacks.
- Trade tobacco products at your workplace for lollipops to help “lick” the habit. Attach messages that say, “You’re on your way to saving your life and hundreds around you. Thanks from [company name].”
- Arrange for blood pressure screenings, fitness activities and healthy diet counseling for tobacco users trying to quit and nonsmokers.
- Hold no-smoke breaks for everyone to take a fresh-air break without lighting up.
- Enlist non-smokers to “adopt” smokers for the day supporting them with advice and snacks. The support can continue after the Great American Smokeout is over.
“Quitting smoking is a very important step in reducing cancer risk, as tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S.,” said Edward Partridge, M.D., national volunteer president for the American Cancer Society. “The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout is a great first step for smokers to take charge of their health by quitting or making a plan to quit, and the Society can help smokers through a variety of resources including personalized telephone coaching by trained specialists.”