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Behavioral Sciences & Social Medicine > Area Health Education Center

Tobacco and System Interventions: Healthcare Purchaser

Importance to Healthcare Purchasers (Employers)

Tobacco-related deaths, injuries and poor health not only affect the tobacco user but also have direct and indirect costs for employers. Direct costs include payments made out-of-pocket on healthcare benefits, disability, and workers' compensation. The direct medical costs associated with smoking total approximately $75.5 billion (average 1997-2001).1 Additionally, businesses pay an average of $2,189 in workers' compensation costs for smokers, compared with $176 for nonsmokers.2 Indirect costs include lost wages, lost workdays, costs related to using replacement workers, overtime premiums, productivity losses related to unscheduled absences, and productivity losses of workers on the job. It is estimated that each employee who smokes costs employers $1,897 in lost productivity each year.1

What Does Tobacco Cost Your Business?

Have you thought about how much tobacco use costs your organization? These factors include, greater healthcare costs, increased absenteeism, work time spent on smoking breaks, higher life insurance premiums, increased risk of occupational injuries, increased cost of disability, increased disciplinary actions. Use this calculator as a guide to estimating these costs.

Recommendations

 The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) report Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence: A Clinical Practice Guideline, recommends the inclusion of tobacco cessation treatments (both pharmacotherapy and counseling) in employee health benefit packages.3 By adhering to the following recommendations, employers can potentially reduce the negative health and economic effects of tobacco use.   

Recommendation: Employers should request or select health plans that cover all effective tobacco cessation treatments and allow employees to choose their preferred approach.3, 4

  • Seven medications and three types of counseling are recommended to treat tobacco dependency. Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) are available over-the-counter (patch, gum, lozenge) and by prescription (nasal spray, inhaler), while bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) are two non-nicotine, prescription-only options.3
  • The types of counseling include individual (either face-to-face or telephone) and group counseling.
  • Coverage should be provided for at least two smoking cessation attempts per year.5

Recommendations: Employers should educate all employees about the availability of tobacco cessation benefits and encourage employees to use the benefits.3

  • Employees need to know that the coverage exists to use it. Inform employees directly and regularly about available cessation treatments and programs.
  • Publicize the coverage through newsletters, emails and other communications
  • Information about cessation benefits should be presented in a way that is easy for employees to understand and obtain. 
  • Inform employees that individual and group counseling is available through Tobacco Free Florida. Employees can call (individual telephone counseling through the Florida Quitline), click (individualized online program) or come in (face-to-face group counseling) to receive cessation assistance. 6

Recommendation: Employers should consider making their workplaces tobacco free. 4,7

  • Instituting workplace bans on tobacco use creates a supportive, conducive environment for smokers and other tobacco users that are trying to quit.
  • Workplaces that are tobacco free promotes a healthy workplace and protects all employees from being exposed to the harms of secondhand smoke.