Taking a Stand for Wellness

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Employers Increasingly Recognize Benefits of Nicotine Free Worksites

Though tobacco use rates continue to decline, with 15.1% of adults being classified as smokers nationwide, its’ health implications remain a very real cause for concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds cigarette smoking to be the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, linking it to 1 out of every 5 deaths. With figures like this, it’s hard to overstate the health consequences of tobacco use. At the same time, tobacco prevention efforts and cessation support have never been stronger, coming not just from health professionals but also in areas of the community you wouldn’t immediately expect. Increasingly, employers are becoming a growing player in the move toward a tobacco and nicotine free society.

For employers, there are many reasons to be concerned with tobacco use. The health care costs of users and the resulting productivity losses come out to an estimated $289 billion dollars, just in the United States alone. In an environment of rising insurance costs, this is a tough burden to bear for many employers, especially when their bottom line is threatened by lowered productivity from employees that use. In fact, tobacco using employees miss approximately 2.6 more days of work annually versus their non-smoking colleagues. Employers must also confront the maintenance costs with tobacco waste in and around the worksite. Above all, however, the overriding concern for many employers if their employees’ health and wellness.

To help address this issue, many employers are choosing to be proactive in helping their employees quit tobacco. They understand that tobacco addiction is very real, and often tough to break. A CDC study found that 70% of smokers want to quit, 50% have tried, but only 6% have succeeded. For this reason, employers find it vital to aid their employees’ efforts to quit by hosting cessation classes, referring to cessation support services, hosting lunch and learns to learn about important quit tips, and providing aides to help in the quitting process.

In conjunction with helping employees quit, employers are also increasingly looking at their own policies in relation to what’s allowed on worksite property. Many people are aware of Iowa’s law prohibiting smoking in public places, including worksites, but this isn’t extended to many outside places, and doesn’t cover other harmful tobacco and nicotine based products, including smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes. To address this gap, many employers have found it in their best interest to adopt policies making their property completely tobacco and nicotine free. This reduces maintenance costs, encourages employees to quit, and helps to promote a safe and healthy atmosphere.

While many businesses and organizations would love to help their employees, lower their costs, and boost productivity, it can be difficult to know where to start. Thankfully, there are many free resources available to help support, educate on, and implement a tobacco and nicotine free policy for your worksite. For more information, contact Prevention Services at the Area Substance Abuse Council by calling 319-390-1884 or by e-mail prevention@asac.us.


By: Jeffrey Meyers, Certified Prevention Specialist

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