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Robyn Whalen
  November 12, 2018

Kick Butts: How to Help Employees Quit Smoking This Month

Believe it or not, nearly 38 million Americans still smoke cigarettes.

Quitting smoking can be a challenge for even the most motivated of people. That’s why the American Cancer Society dedicates Nov. 15 as the Great American Smokeout. The national event encourages smokers to start living a smoke-free life one day at a time.

It may be hard to quit smoking, but with a plan, it can be done.

Here’s a brief overview of how to address tobacco use with employees, plus easy-to-implement smoking cessation activities.

Benefits of a Tobacco-Free Worksite Policy

Most workplaces are required by law to be completely smoke-free sites. When was the last time you saw someone smoke on an airplane? Or in a restaurant?

Twenty-seven states (plus the District of Columbia) have adopted smoke-free workplace laws. It’s a wise move as it benefits the health of workers and the pocketbooks of employers. According to the CDC, for every tobacco user a company helps to quit, health care costs for the employer decrease by $2,583.

Benefits For Employers

  • Fire risk is lowered
  • Healthcare costs may be reduced
  • Non-smoker complaints are reduced
  • Office equipment (furniture, curtains, etc.) last longer
  • Insurance coverage negotiations are possible when fewer employees smoke

Benefits For Employees

  • A smoke-free environment helps create a healthier workplace
  • Shows the company cares deeply about employee health
  • Non-smokers won’t be exposed to polluted air at the worksite
  • Smokers will appreciate clear policy procedures

If you plan to change your smoking policy, give advance notice well before the changes are made. Send email notices, hang fliers, and host a few meetings to let employees know what to expect.

Smoking Cessation Ideas for the Workplace

While quitting the cancer sticks may be challenging, it doesn’t have to be completely agonizing. Here are five ideas to get employees onboard with quitting nicotine.

Go Cold Turkey

Encourage employees to go “cold turkey” for a day with their smoking habit. Raffle off a cold turkey sandwich meal — or a Thanksgiving turkey — to encourage participation. Or, gather the office for a “make your own turkey sandwich” event in the break room. While employees are gathered, pass out information on quitting smoking.

Send Encouraging Notes

Keep a list of employees trying to actively quit smoking. Then send cheerful emails to encourage them.

Note suggestions:

  • Many people all over the world have quit smoking. You can too.
  • Your health is everything. Keep going down the road of health!
  • Do not smoke – not even one puff!
  • “Desire is the starting point of all achievement, not a hope, not a wish, but a keen pulsating desire, which transcends everything.” – Napoleon Hill
  • Think of the day you completely stop smoking. How will it feel?

Offer Incentives

They say money is a motivator. Offer cash prizes (or gift cards) during the month of November to those who pledge to quit smoking by the end of the month. Raffle off a grand prize, like a spa trip or gym membership for participants who don’t touch cigarettes through the end of the year.

Stop-Smoking Stations

Let smokers trade their cigs for beneficial nicotine replacement options like gum, patches, or lozenges. Sometimes, former smokers just need something to chew on. Offer alternatives like carrots, lollipops, and sugarless chewing gum.

Share Resources

Quitting smoking is challenging and having valuable resources can make it easier. All states have designated “quitlines” with counselors trained to help smokers quit. The National Cancer Institute’s line is open Monday through Friday 9 am to 9 pm, EST, for example. The number is 877-448-7848.

More Resources

Want even more resources? These two programs sponsored by the American Cancer Society to help employers reduce the number of tobacco-using employees.

Quit For Life Program

The Quit For Life Program from the American Cancer Society and Optum helps employers reduce their health care costs by getting employees to stop smoking. Expect more employee productivity when you get workers to quit smoking because it means less sick days and smoke breaks. This program uses Optum’s reporting data on usage to evaluate success rates.

Freshstart Program

This group-based tobacco cessation support program helps smokers plan to quit successfully. The Freshstart program offers users skills for coping with cravings, useful information, and group support. The program has found success in settings like universities and colleges, workplaces, and hospitals. Certified facilitators help participants work through the program with presentations, handouts, and guides to motivate participants.

The Time is Now

Anytime is a good time to quit smoking. The month of November gives employers an extra push to help employees get it done with national events like the Great American Smokeout.

If you’re on the fence about participating, think about how much it would mean to your employees to embrace the holiday season with a smoke-free lifestyle. There’s no better gift to share with your employees than the present of a healthier life.

What programs or creative ways have you used in your office to get employees to stop smoking? Share below!

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