Dame Carol Black, chair of the Government’s Responsibility Deal health at work network, spells out what’s in it for employers to help their staff stop smoking and urges them to sign up to the Responsibility Deal stop smoking pledge.
A smoker who can stop for 28 days is five times more likely to succeed in staying smokefree permanently. The Stoptober campaign provides motivation and support throughout the 28 days. Everyone taking part can choose their support mechanism, be it an app, website, text or pack through the door.
Anyone who’s been through or knows someone who has tried to stop smoking will know that it’s not easy and any support and help they can get makes a huge difference to their giving up and sticking with it.
The innovative Stoptober campaign is targeted at individuals but I want to appeal to employers and all organisations to get behind the campaign and do all they can to encourage and support their employees to take this opportunity to quit.
There are resources for employers to increase the network of awareness, motivation and support. Yes smoking is about personal choice and responsibility. But there is an impact on the workplace and business too.
Around 8 million adults in England still smoke. Smoking is the primary cause of preventable ill-health and early death counting for almost 80,000 deaths in England each year.
Smoking causes a wide range of diseases and chronic conditions including cancers, respiratory disease, coronary heart and other circulatory diseases, stomach/duodenal ulcer, impotence and infertility, complications in pregnancy and low birthweight. Following surgery, it contributes to lower survival rates, post-operative respiratory complications and poor healing.
Children of smoking parents are more likely to suffer serious respiratory infections due to the exposure to second-hand smoke. In England, more people die each year from smoking than from drug use, road accidents, other accidents and falls, preventable diabetes, suicide and alcohol misuse combined.
The impact on society goes further. The overall economic burden is estimated at £13.74 billion a year. As well as the costs of treating smoking-related illnesses in the NHS (estimated at £2.7 billion a year) this also includes loss of productivity from smoking breaks and increased absenteeism. Three 15 minute smoking breaks each day cost employers 195 working hours a year for each employee.
The Enterprise LSE Report (2008) estimated the total direct cost of smoking borne by employers in 2008 was £2.1 billion: £1.1 billion from smoking-related illness absence, £914 million from smoking-related breaks and £133 million in fire damage.
Many NHS stop-smoking services run stop-smoking groups or Quit Clubs in the workplace. The cost of running quit clubs can be offset against the cost borne by employers of staff smoking.
A company in Dartford, who participated in the Smoke Free Kent Business Award, had 203 smokers (35 per cent of workforce). The costs to the company were estimated at:
Cost of excess sickness: £75,902
Smoking breaks (10 mins): £92,003
Total cost to organisation: £167,905
Working with the local stop-smoking service they had 26 staff succeed in stopping – making a saving of £21,505.
There are a number of ways that employers can support employees to stop smoking. A good start would be to sign up to the Responsibility Deal stop-smoking pledge. In doing so an employer makes the following modest but important commitment: ‘We will encourage staff to stop smoking, by facilitating onsite stop-smoking support services or by encouraging them to attend local stop-smoking services during working time without loss of pay. We will also take action to reduce other risks to respiratory health arising in the workplace’.