One of my first full-time jobs was at a corporation where it wasn’t uncommon to see smokers lighting up at their desks all day long. A cloud of blueish haze hanging over the desks was a normal, everyday occurrence. But as the health consequences of smoking and secondhand smoke became more widely known, smoking in the workplace was banned and smokers were regulated to appease their nicotine habit outside during their breaks. Just like everything in life, societal norms about smoking changed too. Now workplaces are not only banning smoking, they are banning the hiring of smokers too, and with good reason–they hurt the corporate bottom line.
According to researchers, smokers cost their employers in additional health care costs, lost productivity and increased absenteeism. Insurers are charging companies more for their smoking employees as they tend to use the health care system more. Some insurers are also accessing a penalty on smokers above and beyond the higher health care premiums, and many companies are passing that penalty on to their employers.
Lost productivity can be seen in two ways: the lack of work due to a nicotine fog while you wait for your next cigarette, and the lack of work because the employee is away from the work area on a cigarette break. The researchers figured five breaks during an eight hour work day. But if employers ban smoking on the premises, it may take longer for those breaks. Colds, respiratory illnesses and other smoking-related health issues keep smoking employees from being at work.
The researchers also took into account that some employers pay smokers less to make up the difference in higher health care costs, and that smokers tend to die younger drawing less pension. Even with all these factors, it still costs a company about $5,800 extra a year to employ a smoker. Pretty sad that the only benefit a company gets from a smoker is to save on pension benefits because they die younger.
One expense not noted was the loss of productivity and absenteeism for nonsmoking employees forced to work around a smoker. It might be an interesting study.
You can read more about the study here.