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Employees who smoke are costing employers 2.1 billion a year

Commissioned by the NHS smokefree, The London School of Economics report includes a new formula giving employers a snapshot of the costs they actually bear when smokers are absent due to illness, or take a cigarette break. In Yorkshire alone the cost to businesses in the region is 160.1 million, while further south in London businesses are shouldering an annual spend of 326.7 million. The least affected area appears to be the North East - but still the cost of smoking to employers there is 70.3 million.
The direct costs caused by smoking related absences and smoking breaks by sector:
  • Elementary administration and service occupations 115.4m
  • Process, plant and machine operatives 105m
  • Elementary trades, plants and storage 103.2m
  • Sales occupations and customer service operations 98.8m
  • Transport and mobile machine drivers/operatives 67.7m
  • Skilled, construction and building trade 53.8m
Professor Alistair McGuire, Head of Social Policy at LSE and lead academic for the report, said: "Our formula reveals just how much of businesses' bottom line is going up in smoke every year and how small changes, with a little help from the NHS, could result in major savings." Taking the LSE formula and applying it nationally shows the current total estimate of employer direct costs is 2.1 billion per annum."This doesn't even include the indirect costs to company image from employees smoking outside the premises, or to the dissatisfaction felt by non-smoking workers who perceive smoking colleagues to be shrinking as they take smoke-breaks," he said.
To cut the costs of smoking some employers are turning to their local PCT for free stop smoking advice and smoking cessation programmes. Trevor Carmichael, Operations Manager at ParcelForce in Rotherham, already sees the benefits of employer run quit smoking initiatives. ParcelForce teamed with the Rotherham Stop Smoking Service just over three months ago to offer a quit smoking programme to its workers. Mr Carmichael said: "The support we have received has been excellent and there is definitely a positive feeling in the depot, amongst both smoking and non-smoking colleagues."
The course has been run by a specially trained NHS stop smoking adviser who sees staff at the ParcelForce depot. Carmichael explained, "The stop smoking adviser has been very flexible and fitted in with the need of our business by running support sessions during times that fit with our shift patterns - that has meant some sessions at 6.30 am."
Employers can get free employee quit smoking programmes from 150 local NHS Stop Smoking Services throughout the country. Trained advisers can provide group or one-to-one stop smoking sessions within a company workplace, or at convenient sites in the local community. Advisers can also attend company staff health events, or run introductory sessions to assess staff interest if that better suits business work patterns. They can also train a company's human resources or occupational health team to deliver stop smoking advice.
The direct costs caused by smoking related absences and smoking breaks borne by employers, by region:
  • London 326.7m
  • South East 274.2m
  • North West 225.5m
  • West Midlands 173.3m
  • East 166.4m
  • South West 161.4m
  • Yorkshire 160.1m
  • East Midlands 121.6m
  • North East 70.3m
Drew Collins from NHS Stop Smoking Services explained: "There's no doubt that smoking is bad for your health and bad for business. If employers want to save money and look after their workers' health, they should get in touch with their NHS Stop Smoking Service. We can come into workplaces and help people to stop smoking at no extra cost."
Dr Linda Bauld from the University of Bath and UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies says workplace stop smoking programmes are effective at helping smokers to quit. "What works best is a combination of support from a trained adviser, either in groups or one to one, and access to stop smoking medication. This is exactly what NHS Stop Smoking Services can offer, and employers have an important role to play in helping their staff succeed at stopping smoking."
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