Smoking at Work

More and more companies realize that their performance is directly impacted by their employees' health and lifestyle. It is precisely the reason why some organizations have developed stop smoking support programs aimed at improving the Quality of Life at Work.

Two women at work during a cigarette break

October 16, 2018

What are the benefits of a tobacco-free company ?

Are people who smoke at work privileged compared to nonsmokers? This is at least the opinion of the C.E.O. of a Japanese company, Piala Inc., who decided to set up a new measure: an article from the New York Times reveals that since the beginning of 2017, six additional vacation days a year are accorded to the non-smoking employees. The Chief Executive explains his choice: the smokers at Piala need to go several times a day down to the basement of the building for their cigarette breaks, yet the offices of the company are at the 29th floor. All in all, the company observed a significant difference between the effective work hours of a smoker and those of a nonsmoker. The additional vacation days are supposed to balance the working hours by rewarding the biggest productivity of the nonsmoking employees, but they also have another goal, as Piala’s chief executive Takao Asuka expresses it: “I hope to encourage employees to quit smoking through incentives rather than penalties or coercion”.

Companies are more and more concerned by their employees’ health. Like Piala, a lot of companies invest in awareness programs concerning tobacco at work. In China, Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health (COSH) had organized the “Smoke-free Workplace Leading Company Awards”, a campaign that attracted more than 200 forward-looking companies. This initiative demonstrates the concern of business leaders in getting involved in tobacco control and thus in the health of all their employees. As a matter of fact, anti-tobacco programs do not only target smokers, but also nonsmokers, exposed to their colleagues’ side stream smoke.

Smoking at work has a real cost for companies. Regular smoking breaks, sick leaves as well as difficulties concentrating, more frequent for smokers than for nonsmokers, are all contributing factors to the drop in performance of the employees and, consequently, to the decreased productivity of the business. According to a study from the Ohio University (2013), taking into account the staff absenteeism and the social charges, a smoker costs 52000€ per year on average to their company. The employees’ health thus has a real impact on both their wellness and motivation, and the company’s productivity.

A smoke-free policy gives a good image of the company. Besides a rise in productivity, a company that establishes non-smoking measures promotes itself as a responsible and engaged organization for its employees, but also for its customers and external partners.

Business leaders’ tendency to support their employees in their smoking cessation proves to be beneficial for the well-being of both their companies and the employees.

However, is it really the role of a company to support its employees for smoking cessation?

It is at least the wish of an average of 48% of smoking employees.

Two women at work during a cigarette break
— Quitterie C.