tobacco workplace wellness

Companies Focus on Tobacco as Part of Health Cost Reduction

An important component of any well-run workplace wellness program centers on a health concern we are all familiar with: Tobacco.

We have reported frequently on the health risks and costs associated with smoking:

We previously noted a study that showed that following tobacco control measures leads to lower smoking rates. The Lancet reports that “Tobacco use is the single greatest preventable cause of death in the world. Globally, tobacco kills nearly 6 million people a year and is a risk factor for six of the eight leading causes of death. Moreover, global tobacco use exerts an extraordinary toll on economic wellbeing, causing more than US$1 trillion in health-care costs and lost productivity annually.”

We highlighted a CDC report that explains how tobacco threatens workplace health, costs and productivity.

We also highlighted an online tool — created by the Center for Medicine and Public Health at Florida State University — that calculates what tobacco costs your business.The tool uses the 2011 Florida Adult Smoking Rate to make its computation. It also estimates health and productivity costs. Of course, actual figures may differ by state and business.

Further, we noted that MedPage reports that countries that follow the WHO Tobacco Control see a “lower smoking prevalence.”

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s  2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey offers something else: Ways that firms implement “penalties for tobacco use.”

It states:

  • “Among firms offering health benefits, 16% of small firms and 14% of large firms, including 49% of firms with 5,000 or more workers, require higher premium contributions or cost sharing from workers who use tobacco. Some firms noted that not smoking is a condition of employment.”
  • “Among firms with higher costs for workers who use tobacco, virtually all firms rely on self-reporting, including through a health risk assessment, to determine whether a worker uses tobacco.”
  • “Among large firms with higher costs for workers who use tobacco, 56% indicate that dependents also have higher premium contributions or cost sharing if they use tobacco.”