CDC: How Tobacco Threatens Workplace Health, Costs and Productivity

While much of workplace wellness can focus on mental health, chronic disease management, engagement, fitness, and more, it’s important not to overlook one of the most obvious and important health risks — and drivers of health care costs: Tobacco.

The CDC Foundation’s Business Pulse reports that smoking costs the U.S. economy “more than $300 billion annually in direct medical care and lost productivity, including $5.6 billion a year in productivity losses from exposure to secondhand smoke.”

In fact, based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “almost 20 percent of the nation’s adult workforce smokes, which not only threatens employees’ health and well-being, but also decreases productivity, increases absenteeism and increases workplace maintenance costs. Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States.”

The CDC offers statistics that highlight the serious challenges businesses face:

  • “Smokers are estimated to cost employers nearly $6,000 more per year than nonsmokers.”
  • “Worksites that allow smoking spend about $728 more per 1,000 square feet annually in maintenance costs for office space than smokefree worksites. With U.S. commercial buildings averaging between 12,000 to 19,000 square feet, there is an estimated extra cost of about $9,000 to $14,000 annually.”
  • “Smoking increases the risk of fires and injuries, which can increase health and building insurance costs by up to 30 percent.”

The CDC Foundation’s infographic offers additional insights: