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Smoking Workers Cost Employers $6,000 More a Year

Wednesday, 05 Jun 2013 12:37 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Employees who smoke cost their employers almost $6,000 more per year than nonsmokers, researchers find.

Additional time off, smoke breaks, and increased healthcare costs all contribute to the additional burden put on employers, according to a study published in the online edition of Tobacco Control.

"Employees who smoke impose significant excess costs on private employers," wrote lead researcher Micah Berman, of the College of Public Health & Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

"The results of this study may help inform employer decisions about tobacco-related policies."

Researchers looked at the effects of smoking on absenteeism, showing up to work while sick, resulting in lower productivity, smoke breaks, healthcare costs, and pension benefits.

The study estimates that the total cost for an employer for each smoking employee is $5,816 annually. This number is based on $517 for more missed work days, $462 for  working while sick costs, $3,077 for smoke breaks, and $2,056 for additional healthcare costs.

However, the researchers noted, because smokers tend to die younger than non-smokers, pension costs averaged $296 lower for smoking employees.

The researchers looked at data from previous studies to estimate costs.

"It is important to remember that the costs imposed by tobacco use are not simply financial costs," the researchers write. "It is not possible to put a price on the lost lives and the human suffering caused by smoking.

"The desire to help one's employees lead healthier and longer lives should provide an additional impetus for employers to work towards eliminating tobacco from the workplace."

Some employers have began charging smokers higher health-insurance premiums, and some businesses have gone so far as threatening employees with their jobs if they continue smoking after a specified deadline.



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