a hand holding a lit cigarette and breaking it in half

Using Group Benefits & Incentives to Quit Smoking & Vaping

It’s no secret that it is difficult to quit smoking.

A habit that kills over 480,000 each year in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s something that needs to be stopped.

Alongside premature deaths, numerous tobacco-related diseases affect millions of people every year; including:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Emphysema
  • Various cancer, including lung cancer
  • Diabetes

When you are running a business that has smokers within it, it’s at risk.

Not only will you see many absences because of related conditions, but a decrease in productivity as employees will be distracted with smoking breaks throughout the day.

So, how can you combat this?

Research undertaken by professors at Ohio State University has found that employers can save an average of $5,816 for every employee that quits smoking.

Savings that come from lower healthcare costs, prevented premature deaths and an increase in workplace productivity, this along with saving your employee’s lives make it well worth it.

Although over 50% of people in the US try to quit smoking every year, and there has been a significant drop in the amount of people that smoke over the years, the success rate is only 7.2%.

Source: Statista

To help increase this, there are certain group benefits and incentives that businesses can offer to give their workers the push that they need to try and quit.

These resources are incredibly beneficial, from both financial and health perspectives as aforementioned.

Although these financial incentives might seem expensive in the short term, the end result makes it more than worth the initial investment.

Showcasing how your business can help to transform your worker’s lives, these incentives illustrate the influence of your policies.

The Rise in Vaping

However, it’s not only tobacco that is popular in the US.

Some favor vaping, as they believe that it’s the lesser evil out of the two habits.

With an increase of 50% between 2011 and 2018 that vape according to the World Health Organization, it’s a habit that many younger adults are starting as they believe that it’s less dangerous than its counterpart.

However, according to several sources, including the CDC, vaping has been linked to an outbreak in lung injury.

With a sharp increase in visits to the emergency department across the states (with over 60 confirmed deaths, including 1 in New Jersey), certain employers have taken action by banning the products in their workplaces.

Along with workplace bans, several states have issued both temporary and permanent sales bans or restrictions on vaping products – including New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island.

These smoke-free indoor air laws ban vaping in areas where smoking is also banned.

However, not all workplaces have policies that align with the ban.

Which faces employers with whether they will allow vaping in the workplace or if they will ban it.

An Alternative to Quitting Smoking

Many people across the country are opting for vaping as a way of quitting smoking.

Stepping away from the traditional cessation techniques of nicotine patches and gum, they believe that it will help them to break the habit.

As it’s aimed as a way of reducing the amount of nicotine over time, many e-cigarette companies argue that it’s effective.

However, as vaping is believed to be just as harmful according to research, it’s clear that this could just be their way of continuing their habit.

Conclusive evidence of the effectiveness of vaping as a cessation tool is still underway.

How to Choose an Incentive

When choosing an incentive to encourage employees to quit smoking, you need to think about which ones will engage them.

For example, you could give them the following group benefits:

  • Guaranteed bonuses every few months
  • Discounts on health insurance premiums – something that 16% of employers do according to the 2018 Employee Benefits Survey Report
  • Free cessation aids – such as pharmacotherapy or nicotine-replacement therapy
  • A wellness program – including access to an on-site (or external) health clinic, fitness area and personal coaching
  • Ensuring that all treatments and medications under the U.S. Public Health Service Guideline are covered
  • Eliminate cost-sharing on counseling and medications

How To Create Effective Anti-Smoking Policies

Before rolling out the policies, you need to consider exactly what they include.

For example, will you implement a surcharge the moment that an employee smokes a cigarette outside your office or will you give them a warning before fining them?

You also must consider if your policies will solely include tobacco, or whether they will include vaping.

If you want these bans to be applicable in the long term, you must bring in measures that ensure they stay actioned – such as making your employees take saliva or blood tests.

Any smoking cessation program should be crafted so it covers every psychological, emotional and physical aspects that come with trying to quit.

Giving your employees the right support and resources, they’ll be more likely to stick to it.

If there are any changes to the policies, you’ll also have to communicate them in advance and clearly to your employees.

Anti-Smoking Policies You Can Implement

  • Prohibit smoking in the workplace and on your entire work campus. (alternatively, you can limit it to only outside your building)
  • Publicize group benefits and incentives, whilst ensuring that your business’ health plan includes them
  • Offer several types of modalities
  • Encourage employees to take regular Health Risk Appraisals
  • Educate employees on the risks and promote the incentives
  • Actively encourage employees to participate in events such as World No Tobacco Day and the Great American Smokeout

Acts That Align With Anti-Smoking Policies

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) – under this act, employers are legally allowed to impose surcharges on smokers. However, the act also discloses that as an employer, you should offer cessation resources to your employees (such as the Freedom From Smoking cessation program offered by the American Lung Association).
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – under the ACA, employers can charge employees up to 50% more to cover them with health insurance. However, the act also requires employer-sponsored health insurance to directly cover smoking cessation.

How To Measure the Success of Group Benefits and Incentives

You might wonder, how do I measure the success of the group benefits and incentives to quit smoking?

And while the financial return on investment will not be visible for a while after they are implemented, the physical success of them will be transparent almost straight away.

Not only will you see an increase in productivity in the workplace, but a decrease in absences related to smoking.

Before settling on policies, you must look at these potential benefits and weigh them up against the cost of delivering cessation programs and other incentives.

Ultimately, it’s your choice whether you offer these or not.

But the benefits are undeniable and should not be ignored.