Smokers take a toll on the bottom line of their employers, according to a Conference Board of Canada report.
On average, each smoker cost his employer an estimated $4,256 in 2012 — more than $3,800 in lost productivity due to unsanctioned smoking breaks and more than $400 in lost productivity due to absenteeism.
This amount has risen by more than 25 per cent since the Conference Board's 2005 estimate of the per-smoker cost.
Unsanctioned smoking breaks make up about 90 per cent of the cost to employers, at a cost of $3,842 per full-time employee — a 26 per cent increase since 2005.
On average, each daily smoker and recent quitter took almost two-and-a-half more sick days in 2010 compared to employees who have never smoked — at a cost to their employers of $414 per year.
While the annual absenteeism cost represents only about 10 per cent of the overall $4,256 cost to employers, it has a more widespread impact because it applies to both current daily smokers and recent quitters, said the Conference Board.
Smoking is also responsible for large losses in economic activity, due to its association with increased risk of short- and long-term disability and premature mortality. In 2010, this loss was estimated at $11.4 billion or 0.68 per cent of GDP.
Quitting the habit
Three-quarters of current smokers are working, and most want to break the habit. The prevalence of daily smokers at a typical Canadian company could fall by 35 per cent by 2025 if a workplace cessation program was introduced, said the report. In the absence of a workplace cessation program, the prevalence rate of daily smokers could fall by 13 per cent.
"The workplace is an ideal setting to combat smoking. Canadian businesses should have a strong financial incentive to help smokers quit, especially in industries like construction, mining and transportation that employ predominantly male, blue-collar workers. The prevalence of smoking is much higher than average in these industries, and employers are less likely to offer effective cessation programs, benefits, policies or practices," said Fares Bounajm, senior research associate at the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care and co-author of Smoking Cessation and the Workplace: Benefits of Workplace Programs.
This publication is the last of three briefings in a series on smoking cessation and the workplace. The previous ones were Profile of Tobacco Smokers in Canada and Smoking Cessation Programs in Canadian Workplaces.
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