How smoking burns up company cash

In a world where time is money, smoke breaks can quickly add up for companies. / Thinkstock
In a world where time is money, smoke breaks can quickly add up for companies. / Thinkstock

No matter how you look at it, smoking is expensive — beyond the actual pack of smokes, treatment expenses and healthcare for smokers often break the bank. To combat some of these expenditures, there have been national campaigns to either reduce or fully outlaw public smoking. A new study from Ohio State University shows another way that smoking has become a burden: through those little bits of time smokers use to light up.

According to the June study, employing smokers will cost employers upward of $5,800 per smoker, per year. The costs due to loss of productivity because of periodic smoke breaks is more than $3,000 per smoker, per year. Attorney Gregg Salka, of the law firm Fisher & Phillip, represents employers who are concerned that employing smokers is bad for business.

As a representative for the employers, what are your biggest concerns about employing smokers?

Employers that have employees who take breaks in increments of five to 20 minutes throughout the day; if those employees are hourly, they need to be compensated. So I’m assuming that would decrease productivity just as someone who’s browsing Amazon or posting on Facebook.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about smoking and workplace productivity?

I think [employers] should really treat all their employees the same, regardless of whether they’re smokers or nonsmokers or Facebookers or non-Facebookers. An individual who is taking a break away from working time for whatever reason should be treated and disciplined the same.

What are some of the direct actions employers are planning to take with regard to the costliness of accommodating smokers and their breaks?

The best bet for employers is probably to institute some sort of a wellness program to reduce the overall likelihood that individuals will continue to smoke. Your costs will go down because your employees will be healthier, and they’ll presumably be smoking less and working more. There are also subsidies that are available under the Affordable Care Act in certain situations for employers that implement such wellness programs, so that’s another way to recoup some of the costs that are associated with smoking issues.



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