Breaking an Addiction: Smoking Cessation Programs

It’s no secret that using tobacco products is not a healthy choice.  What may not be as well known, however, are the costs in lost time and productivity because tobacco users may not be as healthy as other employees.

Studies have shown that employees are much more likely to quit when smoking cessation resources are included as paid benefits in their health plan. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated that smoking cessation therapy is the most cost-effective health benefit that employers can offer.  The CDC advocates a two-pronged approach to coverage:

  1. Behavioral Modification: This type of therapy could include telephone, Internet, or in-person individual or group counseling sessions. This type of therapy is extremely important to help smokers address and change their habits and behaviors associated with smoking, plus receive ongoing support during a challenging time. Counseling has been shown to increase the rate of successful quitting.
  2. Prescription/OTC Drug: Many therapies are available here to help smokers quit. An employer might consider lowering or eliminating copays and deductibles associated with these drugs. Covering smoking cessation drugs in your benefit plan will not only improve the quit rate among those attempting to quit, but also may encourage others to try quitting in the first place.

Additional strategies include:

  • Establishing smoke-free policies throughout your workplace
  • Incentive programs for employees who quit and stay smoke-free
  • Flexible spending program to reimburse smoking cessation counseling and prescription drugs
  • On-site counseling options (or counseling referrals)
  • Employee communications for education, promoting your program, and encouragement for those quitting
  • Special event participation, such as the Great American Smokeout
  • Health risk assessments to identify employee smokers
  • Personal support and encouragement in the workplace for employees who are quitting
  • Including spouses and dependents in smoking cessation benefits
  • Many employers do not realize the full cost of smoking to their company. Smokers are much more likely to develop serious chronic medical conditions, visit the doctor more often, be absent from work with an illness, or have a short- or long-term disability, all of which are very costly for a company’s health plan and productivity. In fact, smokers cost private employers in the United States an extra $5,816 per year compared to nonsmokers, according to researchers at Ohio State University.

Smoking cessation programs should be a part of any organization’s benefits package, both for the health of employees and to dramatically impact the bottom line.  For help establishing a smoking cessation program, contact the Benefits specialists at The Reschini Group.

Copyright 2018 The Reschini Group

The Reschini Group provides these updates for information only, and does not provide legal advice. To make decisions regarding insurance matters, please consult directly with a licensed insurance professional or firm.