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Smokers Cost Employers $6,000 More Per Year

Researchers added up health care costs in addition to lost productivity due to "smoke breaks."

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By Valerie Tejeda

06/04/13

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Employees who smoke are costing their employers nearly $6,000 more a year in costs from health insurance and lost productivity, a new study finds. The research, published in the journal Tobacco Control, could support a growing trend of banning smoking in the workplace and refusing to hire employees who smoke. Past studies have shown that smokers' ensuing health problems end up costing the health care system and health insurers more. And since many companies pay for health care costs themselves, they may also experience a direct financial burden from employees' smoking, in addition to the lost productivity from workers stepping away for a smoke break. For the first time, researchers added up these cumulative costs, including: sick days, smoke breaks, and the costs of benefits from not having to pay pensions to employees who die prematurely. Even adjusting for the fact that some employers pay smokers less, they estimate that in total, the annual excess cost of employing a smoker is $5,816. The research also suggested that smokers are significantly less productive in the workplace. “Though all employees are occasionally unproductive in one way or another, research suggests that smoking status negatively impacts productivity separately and apart from lost work time due to smoking breaks and absenteeism,” researchers wrote. The CDC estimates that 19% of adults smoke in the US, and 443,000 people die prematurely because of this habit every year. Additionally, an estimated $193 billion is lost in productivity and health expenses related to smoking each year.

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