Company smoking bans could help employees butt out: Conference Board

Smoking cessation programs also helpful

Smoking bans on all company property both indoors and outdoors should be a visible part of a comprehensive non-smoking policy in Canadian workplaces, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. Additional measures, such as smoking cessation programs, would also help employees to quit smoking.

Currently, 19 per cent of Canadian organizations ban smoking from their property altogether.

“Implementing workplace smoking bans and enforcing these restrictions will help to reduce the likelihood of smoking and shift the organizational culture,” said Karla Thorpe, director of leadership and human resources research at the Conference Board.

“Employers can also do more than setting restrictions — they can play a key role in helping smokers to quit. Three-quarters of current smokers are employed and many want to quit. The most effective methods to help smokers quit are to couple access to medication with counselling and support,” said Thorpe. “This can increase success rates by two to three-fold.”

Smoking bans are a visible sign of an organization’s commitment to help prevent employees from smoking, but there are other aspects to a comprehensive smoking cessation program in Canadian workplaces. These aspects include:

Conduct health risk assessments

About one-half (49 per cent) of employers conduct health risk assessments (HRA) to gauge the risk factors, including smoking, among their employee population. An HRA helps determine the prevalence of smoking among the organization’s workforce organizations, and to what extent employees are receptive to quitting.

Enhance coverage under group benefit plans

The majority of organizations (73 per cent) cover prescription smoking cessation medications. But only 40 per cent cover nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as patches, gum or lozenges. Many employers also impose yearly or lifetime maximum coverage limits on these programs. Since it often takes more than one attempt to quit smoking, plans should be reviewed to ensure coverage is sufficient to allow employees more than one try per year.

Evaluate the effectiveness of smoking cessation programs

The majority of organizations (79 per cent) do not evaluate their smoking cessation programs. As a result, employers lack knowledge about whether smokers are participating and whether the programs are effective at helping employees quit.

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