£4,000 a year: The cost to employers of smokers' cigarette breaks, illness cover and health care costs


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The Independent Online

Smokers cost £4,000 a year more to employ than non-smokers, a study has claimed.

American researchers found that cigarette breaks, increased absenteeism and greater healthcare costs combined to the extra burden smokers place on employers, with smoking breaks alone amounting to £2,000 in lost productivity each year.

Researchers from the College of Public Health and Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University calculated that time off work cost £344 a year, lower productivity £307 and smoking breaks a huge £2,045 per year. Extra health care costs came to £1,367 a year.

However, because smokers tend to die at a younger age than non-smokers, annual pension costs were an average £195 less for an employee who smoked. The total estimated additional cost to the employer came to £3,865 per year.

“Employees who smoke impose significant excess costs on private employers. The results of this study may help inform employer decisions about tobacco-related policies,” the researchers said.

Some US firms have begun charging smokers higher premiums for employee health insurance, while others have said they will fire employees that do not quit smoking within a given time period.

According to NICE, it is not unlawful for UK employers to advertise jobs as only available to non-smokers, and employers can deduct time spent smoking at work and not engaged with duties from an employee’s salary.

“It is important to remember that the costs imposed by tobacco use are not simply financial costs,” the US researchers added. “It is not possible to put a price on the lost lives and the human suffering caused by smoking. The desire to help one’s employees lead healthier and longer lives should provide an additional impetus for employers to work towards eliminating tobacco from the workplace.”