Population Health & Wellness
Tobacco Cessation Programs from Employers

Everyone knows using tobacco has serious adverse health effects, and millions upon millions of people still smoke, vape, chew, or use other kinds of tobacco products. In fact, at the global level tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in the world. Tobacco cessation programs from employers can provide big benefits by improving the lives of employees, lowering healthcare costs, and saving money on lost productivity and sick days related to the negative impacts of tobacco use on health.

Supporting Employees to Do What They Want: Quit

In survey after survey, the good news is that at least half of all people who use tobacco would like to quit. Tobacco cessation programs from employers could be the tipping point in supporting workers who want to quit to make it happen. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has seen smoking rates decline during the past decade, and yet 13.7% of adults in the US are current smokers. Fully one in five deaths in the US can be attributed to smoking. It makes sense for employers to help their workers quit using tobacco.

Workplace Tobacco Cessation Programs

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) states that most health insurance providers and employers must cover the cost of smoking cessation programs for workers. The question is, who is going to decide which program an employee will attend? If it’s the employee or the employee’s healthcare provider, you’ll end up paying for all sorts of different programs with varying costs and possibly varying effectiveness.

By directly sponsoring a workplace tobacco cessation program, your company retains more control over both the quality and the cost of the program. Doing so will also increase the likelihood your employees will use the program as it is a tangible benefit offered through the workplace. It might even be one piece embedded within a larger wellness program effort. If that programming includes other benefits such as health coaching, multiple programming elements can all feed into and support tobacco cessation efforts.

Tobacco Cessation Programs Save Money

Some estimates say that for each employee who smokes that you help quit will save your company upwards of $6,000 a year because those who quit using tobacco will have lower medical bills you help pay for through the company health insurance plan. In addition to lowering your overall health-related spend, there’s all the lost productivity you’ll make up when employees are absent for fewer days because of health problems caused by tobacco use.

Putting this in perspective using just the state of Indiana as an example, “Average annual healthcare costs due to tobacco use total an estimated $2.9 billion. Tobacco use costs Hoosiers an additional $3.2 billion in lost productivity.” In other words, tobacco use is costing American companies a lot. Smoking cessation programs by employers could make a big dent in those figures by addressing nicotine addiction head-on in the workplace.

Tobacco use contributes significantly to one of the big 3 chronic conditions that plague healthcare spending: including high blood pressure and hypertension. But the overall increase in healthcare costs is striking. Insuring a smoker costs an employer on average more than $2,000 each year versus insuring a non-smoker. The smoker will end up spending an extra $16,000 on medical bills than non-smokers. Increased absenteeism is also a serious issue. A Swedish study of 14,000 workers found that smokers on average take 11 more sick days a year than non-smokers. Tobacco cessation programs from employers cost a whole lot less than all those staggering figures.

Tobacco Cessation Programs: What Works?

Because tobacco cessation involves dealing with nicotine addiction, effective programs must combine multiple approaches. Quitting tobacco is hard, so the program must include strategies and tactics that cover all the various difficulties people encounter when trying to quit. There has been extensive research done on the topic of tobacco cessation, so the starting point for any employer program must include evidence-based techniques to guide participants through habit change. Elements and characteristics of good programs include the following:

  • Information and resources (self-service) easily accessible on-the-go (mobile-friendly).
  • Expert guidance on using patches, medications, and other types of treatment options.
  • Community support (such as group programming).
  • Incentives to take the first steps on the journey to quit.
  • Health coaches to help set goals, make plans, and stick with them.
  • Positivity: Refrain from stigmatizing tobacco use or invoking shame. Programming should be uplifting, encouraging, and supportive.
  • Long-term support: Think longer than six months to address physical and mental health.

It’s not uncommon for a third or more of people enrolled in a quality tobacco cessation program to successfully quit for good, especially when it includes health coaching. That’s four times more likely to quit than people just trying on their own without supporting programming.

Better Workforce Health with Tobacco Cessation Programs from Employers

When you see the kinds of savings your company can experience simply by making a low-cost investment in workplace tobacco cessation programs, it should be a no-brainer to jump in and make it happen. LHD can provide invaluable assistance. We have many years of experience in helping employers make the most of health and wellness programs, including making effective tobacco cessation part of what is offered among your other health benefits. We’ll help you explore your current company data on tobacco use, or collect data if needed, as well as guide you through decisions such as whether you should implement a participation-based or outcomes-based program.