Make 2016 the Year to Quit: National Non-Smoking Week 2016

It’s January, which means New Year’s resolutions are in full effect, and you’ve likely heard your friends and family vow to stop those pesky habits and start living healthier lives. Hence, it’s no coincidence that National Non-Smoking Week happens to take place January 17-23, 2016, in hopes of helping people commit to their New Year’s resolution.

Since 1977, this annual campaign has been helping raise awareness of the negative effects of smoking, preventing individuals from starting to smoke, helping smokers quit and promoting smoke-free environments. 

Quick Facts1

  • Tobacco use is one of the leading risk factors for chronic disease and is responsible for more than 37,000 premature deaths in Canada each year.
  • Smoking is still responsible for more deaths each year than drug and alcohol abuse, car crashes, AIDS, murder and suicide combined.  According to the World Health Organization, every eight seconds someone dies from a tobacco-related illness.  It’s clear that nicotine has a firm grip on those who consume it.

Smoking and the Workplace
Although smoking is on the decline, most Canadian employers still have a number of smokers among their employees. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, all Canadian jurisdictions have a formal law or regulation that restricts smoking in the workplace. Smoking is completely prohibited in workplaces in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick and British Columbia. Some provinces allow a separately ventilated room to be built in the workplace. Regulations are not the same for all provinces, so it’s important that local authorities are consulted. 2

Financial Impacts of Smoking
Smoking has a detrimental impact on the bottom line of Canadian firms and the overall productivity of the Canadian economy. A full-time employee who smokes daily is likely to spend a significant amount of time on unsanctioned smoking breaks, costing his or her employer $3,842 per year. Further, a daily smoker or a former daily smoker who has quit within the past 10 years will, on average, take two more sick days per year than an employee who has never smoked, resulting in an additional $414 annual loss in productivity.

Smoking can also have a devastating impact on individuals and their families. It is linked to many chronic conditions and other ailments that can cause short term disability and premature mortality. This costs the Canadian economy and businesses billions of dollars every year in indirect productivity losses.

In Canada, the majority of people who smoke are of working age. Therefore, workplaces are ideal settings to promote, provide and support smoking cessation efforts.  Smoking cessation benefits for employees range in scope but may include access to medication to help quit smoking ; smoking cessation hotlines; self-help resources; counselling; social media support; and smoke-free policies within the workplace.

Strategies for Implementing Smoking Cessation Programs
Some employers may be interested in providing smoking cessation support but simply don’t know how to get started.  Although there is no “one size fits all” for employer-sponsored programs, there are a number of key strategies for success:

  • Strong policies about a smoke-free work environment
  • Relationships with external organizations that have expertise in evidence-based cessation programs, such as public health departments, community pharmacies, or cancer and lung associations
  • An integrated wellness strategy that ensures alignment between risk assessment, programming, and benefits
  • Support from senior leadership
  • Targeted and regular communication about the support programs available and how to access them
  • The rate of decline in smoking prevalence has gradually slowed and it is likely that future progress will require more strategic and targeted efforts, in part by helping current smokers quit. Employers, together with public health groups, health professionals, and insurers, can help to ensure that Canadians who wants to quit smoking have access to the right supports to help them achieve this goal.

For more information, please contact your Benefits Consultant, or the author of this article, Carol Parsons, Senior Benefits Consultant at 1-866-912-6926.

Resources

Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety