Decreasing Tobacco Use

In New York State, the estimated medical expenses attributed to smoking are $6.4 billion annually. Smoking causes many health problems, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, emphysema and stroke. Businesses experience $82 billion in lost productivity from smokers and smokers take about 6.5 more sick days a year than nonsmokers.

In a poll by Harris Interactive, more than 700 of 1,010 (69.3%) employee-smokers say they have a strong desire to quit, but feel they lack the means to do so on their own. Many employees do not have access to smoking cessation programs or nicotine replacement therapies outside of work. The health and productivity benefits from quitting can be seen almost immediately, so employers should consider implementing programs to help their employee smokers quit for good.

The following activities can help smokers quit.

Learn more about making your worksite smoke-free

I. Make All Areas of the Worksite Property Smoke-free (Indoor and Outdoor)

Take the Clean Indoor Air Act* a step further – and decrease the social acceptability of tobacco use – by banning smoking in all areas of the worksite property. Monitor and enforce company break policies to further limit employees' ability to smoke during breaks and banning cigarette breaks. This makes smoking even harder and provides another reason for smokers to quit.

  • Establish a policy that specifies where people can and cannot smoke
  • Announce that the policy is coming.
  • Offer quitting assistance before the policy is enacted (see next two activities).
  • Enact the policy. Post signs where smoking is banned.
  • Enforce smoking bans.
  • Enforce company rules about breaks (e.g., length of breaks)

*Enacted in July 2003. Requires all worksites to be smoke-free.

II. Sponsor Smoking Cessation Programs

Bring in experts to conduct smoking cessation programs. The American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association offer smoking cessation programs for smokers. Employees could be charged a small, reimbursable (if they quit) fee. The programs can be offered on or off site.

  • Provide information about the New York State Smokers' Quitline – 1-866-NY-QUITS (1-866-697-8487) and the smoking cessations services offered by the quitline.
  • Survey employees about interest in a smoking cessation program.
  • Arrange for an organization to conduct the smoking cessation programs.
  • Set up time and place for the meetings.
  • Advertise the program and have people sign up.
  • Consider allowing employees to attend on work time.
  • Hold the program.
  • Evaluate the program by monitoring participants' smoking status.

III. Cover the Cost of Nicotine Replacement Therapy and Other Cessation Medications

Effective treatment for tobacco use and dependence consists of behavioral counseling and medications, including nicotine replacement therapy (patches, gum lozenges, inhaler and nasal spray) and bupropion SR. Negotiate with your health insurance carrier to cover treatment for tobacco use and dependence.

IV. Don't Sell Tobacco Products On-Site

Selling tobacco suggests acceptance of smoking at the worksite. Tobacco products should not be available anywhere on the property, including vending machines and shops. Employees should be notified that tobacco products will no longer be available as of a specific date. Vendors should be notified that tobacco products will no longer be sold on the property. The products should be removed. Removing tobacco products can be coordinated nicely with adopting smoke-free policies and offering assistance with smoking cessation.