Employees Who Smoke Cost Businesses $6,000 Extra Per Year; Cigarette Breaks Big Factor In Loss of Productivity

By Zulai Serrano z.serrano@hngn.com
A new study reveals U.S. businesses pay almost $6,000 per year extra for each employee who smokes, according to Ohio State University researchers.
The researchers took an in depth look at the financial burden for companies that employ smokers, and the findings may surprise you.
“By drawing on previous research on the costs of absenteeism, lost productivity, smoke breaks and health care costs, the researchers developed an estimate that each employee who smokes costs an employer an average of $5,816 annually above the cost of a person who never smoked. These annual costs can range from $2,885 to $10,125,” University said in a news release.
One aspect researchers looked into was the loss of productivity.  According to the findings, smoke breaks were the biggest reason businesses were losing money, followed by health-care expenses that exceed insurance costs for nonsmokers.
The analysis used studies that measured costs for private-sector employers, but the findings would likely apply in the public sector as well, said lead author Micah Berman, who will become an assistant professor of health services management and policy in The Ohio State University College of Public Health.
“This research should help businesses make better informed decisions about their tobacco policies,” Berman said in a news release, who also will have an appointment in the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State. “We constructed our calculations such that individual employers can plug in their own expenses to get more accurate estimates of their own costs.”
The University made it clear the study focused solely on economics, and did not address ethical and privacy issues related to the adoption of workplace policies covering employee smoking.
However, researchers added providing smoking-cessation programs would be an added cost for employers.
“Employers should be understanding about how difficult it is to quit smoking and how much support is needed,” Berman said. “It’s definitely not just a cost issue, but employers should be informed about what the costs are when they are considering these policies.”
The research is published online in the journal Tobacco Controlclick here to read the study.