What Smoking Costs Employers

Smoking cigarettes comes with many steep costs. It costs many smokers their health, their money and their time with friends and family. And the consequences do not stop there; employers are paying the price as well. In Florida, the annual direct costs to the economy attributable to smoking were in excess of $19.6 billion, including workplace productivity losses of $4.4 billion, premature death losses of $7.9 billion and direct medical expenditures of $7.2 billion.1

Scientific evidence is painting a clear picture of smoking’s effect on workplace productivity. One study of more than 14,000 workers in Sweden found that smokers took an average of 11 more sick days than nonsmokers.2 And research published in the prestigious British Medical Journal confirmed that “workplace productivity is increased and absenteeism is decreased among former smokers as compared to current smokers.”3

It’s not only lost productivity that hurts businesses, the increased health care costs of having employees who smoke is another hit to the budget. For an employer, insuring someone who smokes costs $2,000 more every year than insuring a non-smoker.4 A typical smoker will rack up an additional $16,000 in lifetime medical bills.5 In sum, between losses in productivity and extra health care costs, an employee who smokes will cost a business $6,000 per year.6

Employers are increasingly recognizing that helping their employees quit smoking can provide a noticeable boost to their bottom line. Many workplaces are introducing smoking cessation programs that can benefit everyone involved. There are four key elements that comprise the gold standard for promoting a smoke-free workplace:7

  • Implement a smoke-free workplace policy. Florida state law prohibits smoking inside enclosed workplaces, but employers can extend smoking bans to the surrounding areas of an office building to protect employees from the deadly effects of secondhand smoke and encourage smokers to quit.
  • Support smoking cessation through health benefits. Whether it is through providing coverage for counseling and pharmaceutical aids, or providing materials and information about how to quit smoking, there are many ways to motive smokers to make a quit attempt. The money spent to support these efforts will be far less than the productivity loss and health care costs associated with employees who smoke.
  • Cessation initiatives. Many employers are offering financial incentives and rewards to those who quit smoking successfully and remain smoke-free. These incentives programs can be coupled with other office-wide wellness initiatives that support healthy habits such as maintaining a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
  • Work with health care providers. Teaming up with physicians and other health care providers can amplify the impact of cessation initiatives. Offering incentives to doctors who refer smokers to cessation services, or helping physicians spread information about quit lines and other ways to seek support, can be an effective method of improving workplace health.
    While creating new workplace programs, particularly regarding health and wellness, can often be a daunting task, many employees will be grateful for the support. Around 70 percent of smokers say they want to quit, but only five percent quit in a given year.8 Employers can help increase the number of people who quit successfully by creating effective smoking cessation initiatives.

The financial benefits of helping employees quit smoking are proven, but they only complement the human benefit of helping a person make a choice that will forever improve their quality of life. Employers often develop strong friendships and bonds with their employees. Seeing them live happy and healthy means much more than the financial rewards.

There is no greater way to repay employees’ hard work and dedication than to support them on the long, difficult, but valuable journey to quit smoking.

For more information on how Tobacco Free Florida can help your business establish an employer cessation program or implement a tobacco free grounds policy, please contact employercessation@flhealth.gov.


1 Penn State. “Potential Costs and Benefits of Smoking Cessation for Florida.” 30 April 2010. Web. 1 March 2011. http://www.lungusa.org/stop-smoking/tobacco-control-advocacy/reports-resources/cessation-economic-benefits/reports/SmokingCessationTheEconomicBenefits.pdf

2 http://www.cnn.com/2007/LIVING/worklife/08/14/cb.smokers/

3 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11544387

4 http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/03/hiring-a-smoker-costs-u-s-firms-6000-a-head/

5 http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/26/business/26smoking.html?pagewanted=all

6 http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/03/hiring-a-smoker-costs-u-s-firms-6000-a-head/

7 http://www.cancer.org/downloads/gahc/hp_strategies_for_promoting_and_implementing_smokefree_workplace.pdf

8 http://www.legacyforhealth.org/content/download/560/6767/file/Covering_Smoking_Cessation_as_a_Health_Benefit_-_A_Case_for_Employers.pdf