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5 Reasons Why Employers Should Consider a Smoke-Free Workplace

Research shows employers profit and employees are healthier in a smoke-free environment

A tobacco treatment specialist can be a powerful ally for employers looking to take their workplace tobacco free.

Restaurants and bars in North Carolina have been smoke free for over a decade, and any privately owned worksite can enact a smoke-free policy under NC law. So why make the push to be a tobacco-free workplace? Here are 5 advantages employers should consider.

  1. Healthier Employees – Employers that enact smoke-free workplace policies can expect to see improvements in the overall health and productivity of employees. A 2019 report from former U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams found that “employers pay an additional $659 per year in medical and pharmacy costs for each employee who smokes.” Furthermore, middle-age adults who work in a smoke-free workplace have a lower risk of diseases such as heart attack, heart failure, and stroke, when compared to their counterparts working in environments that allow smoking.

  2. Less Absenteeism – Employers can also significantly reduce absenteeism by enacting a smoke-free workplace policy. Over the course of a year, smokers miss roughly 60% more days than nonsmokers, translating to a little over two more days out of the office per year. The CDC estimates that each employee who smokes costs an extra $1,760 per year in lost productivity.

  3. Less PresenteeismPresenteeism occurs when an employee is not fully engaged at work due to illness or injury. Nicotine dependence and withdrawal can contribute to this phenomenon. Consider employee smoke breaks as an example. Nicotine cravings before smoke breaks and symptoms of withdrawal roughly thirty minutes after breaks can lead to distraction, inefficiency, and lack of productivity. Employers can counter presenteeism with smoke-free workplace policies, ensuring that employees are focused and contributing with a greater bandwidth for achievement.

  4. Fewer Legal Woes – There is increasing evidence that employers who permit smoking in the workplace expose themselves to a wide range of legal liability. Nonsmokers sensitive to tobacco are considered handicapped in most states and employers are legally responsible for protecting these employees and providing them with a smoke-free environment. Also, employees who suffer from exposure to secondhand smoke are entitled to extensive compensation from employers. Finally, employees disabled by exposure to workplace tobacco smoke have a strong claim for disability benefits.

  5. Corporate Wellness Culture – A smoke-free workplace policy allows employers to create a culture of corporate wellness. By enacting a policy banning smoking in the workplace, employers place the emphasis on smoking cessation and improving employee health. Additionally, a smoke-free workplace can be the first step in a series of wellness initiatives geared towards creating a happier, healthier, more productive workplace culture.

Check out these resources from the NC Department of Health and Human Services to learn more about making your workplace or community smoke free. You can also sign up for our upcoming Breathe Easy NC 1-day CME training to learn how to make your behavioral health facility smoke free.

Visit our website for more information about or to register for an upcoming Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Training Program!


About the Authors

Aden Klein is a University Scholar at Duke University and former intern with the Duke-UNC TTS Training program. Aden is interested in addressing policy issues facing communities at the local, state, and federal levels. He has researched and written on environmental policy and disaster relief, tax policy, cybersecurity and national security, the space industry, and energy policy. He has worked on the American Cities Climate Challenge, equity in education policy for Tennessee, and technology policy and rights.

Rachael Joyner is a family nurse practitioner with the Duke Smoking Cessation Program. She holds a National Certificate in Tobacco Treatment Practice and received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from the University of Florida. She loves working collaboratively with patients to help them become tobacco free.


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