admin | November 21, 2019


Close up of a cigarette the topic of Healthcare Highways Great American Smokeout Discussion for Employers

Smoking-related deaths are completely preventable causes of death,[i] responsible for nearly half a million deaths in the US each year, with 41,000 of those deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure.[ii]


Why Should Employers Participate in the Great American Smokeout?

Besides the health risks associated with smoking, there are financial drawbacks for employers associated with high smoking rates among employees. According to a study by Ohio State University, employees who smoke cost an additional $5,800 a year compared to non-smokers, mainly in loss of productivity associated with smoke breaks.[iii]

The health and financial drawbacks affecting everyone (individual, family, employers) beg for solutions. Of course, there are resources such as Tips from Former Smokers® by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and SmokefreeTXT courtesy of Smokefree.gov that offer free support for smokers looking to cease smoking. However, there are steps employers can take to support employees who trying to quit.


1. Set up a cessation program

A case study that has stood the test of time in reaffirming an employer’s role in helping an individual cease smoking took place in 2004. General Electric (GE) volunteered to design and host a clinical trial with the help of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The goal of the study was to determine whether employer-backed incentive programs help smokers cease smoking. The results were shocking: incentivized employees (those who were paid) were three times as likely to give up smoking in comparison to non-incentivized employees.[iv]


2. Provide a discount on insurance premiums to non-smokers and would-be non-smokers

Sixteen percent of employers offer a discount on health insurance premium to non-smokers, while 10 percent offer discounts to employees partaking in a program to cease smoking.[v] Saving money is a big motivator for many, especially for you (saving up to $5,800 a year for every non-smoker?).


3. Enforce and reward results of outcome-based wellness programs

With the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and other legal considerations in mind, implementing an outcome-based wellness program should ideally promote:

  1. Optimal health and disease prevention
  2. Premium amount differences are not more than 50 percent between smokers and nonsmokers
  3. Giving employees an opportunity to avoid the tobacco surcharge at least once a year
  4. Providing a reasonable alternative standard to smokers in lieu of the tobacco surcharge
  5. Notification to employees that a reasonable alternative is an option.



[i] https://www.who.int/nmh/publications/fact_sheet_tobacco_en.pdf

[ii] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm

[iii] https://tobaccofree.osu.edu/research/study-companies-pay.html

[iv] https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/should-companies-pay-employees-to-quit-smoking/

[v] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/2018%20Employee%20Benefits%20Report.pdf

Marc_Pinney_Chief of Operations of Healthcare Highways


MARC PINNEY | Chief Operations Officer, Healthcare Highways Mr. Pinney’s extensive career began as a sales representative and later Vice President of Sales for Gallagher Benefit Administrators. A Senior Benefits Consultant at Holmes Murphy & Associates after that, he then brought his deep expertise to Healthcare Highways.