How to support employees in smoking cessation

Your employees may have started the year with lifestyle changes and goals — such as quitting smoking. Although quitting is a personal decision, as an employer, you still can support them as they follow through on their New Year’s resolution to take charge of their health.

The negative side effects of smoking are well-documented. Smoking can increase the risk of serious health care issues, such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer1. It also can be a drain on an employer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, tobacco is responsible for at least $96 billion per year in direct medical costs and an estimated $96.8 billion per year in lost productivity 2.

For many who are contemplating quitting, encouragement from others can help. Here are a few simple ways HR can assist employees in their smoking cessation goal:

  1. Use an integrated approach. As you develop a plan to help support your employees, consider including worksite policies with educational initiatives and a health care plan that helps support smoking cessation.
  2. Provide access to counseling. Offering an employee assistance program (EAP) for support in lifestyle changes — especially one that has counseling services (either face-to-face or via telephone). Counseling can help each employee set individual goals and provide additional support as an employee embarks on quitting.
  3. Provide information about available medications. Are medications that assist in smoking cessation covered by your company’s health insurance benefits? Some prescription drugs are expensive, but it may be possible to obtain a discount directly from the drug manufacturer through a health care provider. Encourage employees to visit drug manufacturer websites to check for rebates.
  4. Offer smoking cessation incentives. Consider adding additional incentives to your benefits offerings, such as lowered health care and/or life insurance premiums for nonsmokers. These lower premiums can help encourage healthy habits.
  5. Promote healthy lifestyles. Employer-sponsored athletic teams, health club discounts or designating onsite workout areas can provide a healthy alternative instead of going for a smoke.

There’s no time like the present to help employees with their smoking cessation goals. Your effort as an employer — a place where they spend the majority of their day — can help them succeed and decrease health care costs your employees may incur.


1Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/. Accessed December 17, 2013.
2Economic Facts About U.S. Tobacco Production and Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/. Accessed January 9, 2014.

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