Perform a search for components of an employee health and wellness program and you’ll find that smoking cessation makes its way into nearly all wellness programs. Tobacco-free employees have fewer health risks and cost their employers less than their tobacco-using counterparts do.
The Staggering Cost of Employee Tobacco Use
If you’re like me, you know that tobacco users must cost a company more money. But I didn’t realize how staggering the cost actually is. According to the CDC, tobacco users cost their employers nearly $3,500 per person each year in medical costs and lost productivity. If you figure that approximately one in four employees uses tobacco, the approximate cost per year for a 2,000-employee site is nearly $1.75 million!
Approaches to Encouraging Tobacco Cessation
Companies take two different approaches to tobacco cessation: incentives and penalties. My company's wellness incentive programs, for example, put a lot of focus on rewarding employees for their efforts to quit tobacco. With benefits ranging from reimbursement for medication to free counseling, becoming tobacco free is a priority. They even offer employees an extra cash bonus in their flex account for being or striving to be tobacco free.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, other companies impose penalties on tobacco users. In a recent survey of major U.S. companies, almost 50 percent of companies surveyed showed interest in penalizing their employees for not complying with all aspects of their wellness programs. In these companies, employees could face higher insurance premiums or increased deductibles. Some companies may even refuse to hire tobacco users.
In my opinion, the best way to keep employees on track for healthy behaviors is staffing a corporate fitness center with highly trained experts familiar with the company’s wellness programs. Onsite fitness center management provides the tools and resources that both employers and employees need to reach the goal of becoming tobacco free.
So which approach is more effective toward the goal of having a tobacco-free workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section.