Need another reason to quit smoking? Not only is tobacco smoking one of the leading causes of death in the world, but it also costs unsuspecting employers thousands of dollars to employ smokers every year.

In a recent cost estimation approach, costs incurred by employers were related to absenteeism, presenteeism, smoke breaks, health care costs and pension benefits of smokers, all of which added up to just over $5800.

When the problem of nicotine addiction enters the workplace, some employers look the other way, believing employees' habits are not theirs to judge. But the excess costs smokers create for employers annually is not a figure that is easily ignored.

Nicotine, the highly-addictive active ingredient in tobacco, acts as a stimulant to give users feelings of relaxed alertness, reduced appetite, and anxiety. In high dosages, nicotine can paradoxically have a sedative effects. According to the American Heart Association, nicotine addiction has historically been one of the hardest addictions to break. Study researchers have found that 30 minutes a person's last cigarette, the effects of the nicotine have worn off, causing an addict to crave another to maintain the feelings caused by the nicotine.

The cost estimation based on absenteeism stems from the fact that smokers have more absences each year on average than non-smokers. Smoking is associated to a 60 percent increased likelihood in men missing a day of work. The actual cost of absenteeism for companies is $515 thanks to compensation costs and health benefits that are paid for that missed day of work.

Presenteeimsm is best explained as the costs incurred by a decreased productivity of smokers while at work, thanks to their smoking habits. This tends to cost employers $400 per year and workers are, on average, 4 percent less productive. Often, companies will adopt a smoke-free campus policy that prohibits smoking on the company's property. Unfortunately, this can further decrease productivity, as smokers spend more time traveling to an appropriate place to smoke.

Smokers tend to have many health issues and the cost of health care benefits can reach $2,000. Health insurance premiums are often higher for employers when there are more smokers employed. Often, health insurance offered by ones job will over smoking cessation programs that cost the employer additional amounts, but at least this can be seen as a one-time cost- as an employee only needs to quit once, whereas an employee who smokes continues to have poor health, increasing the insurance premium the longer he or she is employed.

As a result of all of these excess costs and their lifestyle, smokers earn $3,400 less in wages than non-smokers.

While the costs incurred by the employers of smokers are impressive, employers cannot discriminate against potential hires or current employees based on their status of smoker or non-smoker. Similarly, employees with chronic ailments like cancer and diabetes can increase an employer's health care costs, but this information is considered private. Employees need not disclose their medical history to their employer.

As science uncovers the extent of the harm caused by smoking, it becomes clearer why people should quit and with great urgency. About 19 percent of American adults are currently smokers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that cigarette smoking causes about 1 of every 5 deaths in the United States each year. Of note, adults who smoke cigarettes die 14 years earlier than non-smoking counterparts.

The reasons to quit smoking become more apparent every day. Although a smoker may not lose his or her job over it, is the habit really worth the costs to both employees, employers, and the toll on life?

 

Source: Berman M, Crane R, Seiber E, Munur M. Estimating the cost of a smoking employee. Tob Control. 2013