Smoking and work

Photo by kevinrwalsh via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

Photo by kevinrwalsh via Flickr, under Creative Commons Licence

According to new research released by the British Heart Foundation, smoking breaks and additional sick leave are costing UK businesses £8.7 billion in lost productivity every year.

Most of us don’t need to be reminded of the significant health risks associated with smoking, such as:

  • heart disease (the main cause of death amongst smokers);
  • cancer (e.g. lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, cancer of the larynx and mouth);
  • COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and emphysema;
  • strokes.

Yet despite the risk of significant health damage and potential death (around half of regular smokers will eventually die due to smoking, according to Ash, January 2014), there are around 10 million adult smokers in the UK.

According to the British Heart Foundation, the average smoker takes four ten-minute smoking breaks each day and, on average, smokers take nearly one day more off sick compared to their non-smoking colleagues. And, with approximately one fifth of the UK’s workforce still comprised of smokers, it’s quite easy to see how these costs rack up over time.

Employers aren’t blind to these costs and, increasingly, their response is to discourage smoking as much as possible, particularly as workers are an organisation’s main asset, so helping them to remain healthy and productive should be considered a priority.

For information on keeping workers (and organisations) healthy, view the resources on the Health for Work Adviceline website, blog and knowledge base.

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