Savvy employers will take heed and implement the smoking-cessation recommendations published by the UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), says an Editorial in this week's edition of The Lancet.
The editorial says: "What is good for employees' health turns out to be good for business as well."
Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and early death in many countries, and is an expensive addiction for both employees and employers. Non-smoking employees must cover for smokers taking a break or who are absent due to illness.
The editorial says: "A huge toll is extracted from those who are not themselves smokers but who are exposed to second hand smoke. Passive smoking in the workplace has been estimated, in the UK alone, to cause the deaths of two people each working day every year - an appalling and entirely preventable statistic."
NICE say that even short counselling sessions of 5-10 minutes on stopping smoking can be effective, as well as nicotine replacement therapy, group therapy and tailored self help materials. Doctors often fail to use these interventions, with many citing time and/or reimbursement issues as the reasons.
The editorial says: "Relapse is common, but repeated intervention can improve quit rates. Doctors may also feel isolated and unduly burdened by what is, in fact, a shared societal responsibility."
It is estimated that each smoking employee costs their employer 33 lost hours a year, so in a business with 250 employees with 25 per cent smokers (the level of smokers estimated in the UK population), this translates to 2079 lost hours in a year.
The editorial concludes: "Smoking-cessation interventions are obviously good for individuals and public health. But the NICE report extends to business the responsibility for helping smokers quit and summarises the array of proven options."
The issue of smoking cessation is also covered in this week's World Report section.