Business Loses Billions Unnecessarily on Employees Who Smoke
By Charles K. Bens, Ph.D.
Smoking costs the American economy over 150 billion dollars each year with $75 billion being spent on medical costs and $80 billion in lost productivity. These figures grow every year as smoking continues to be the number one preventable contributor to heart disease, cancer and a myriad of other diseases.
This continually growing financial burden occurs in spite of aggressive stop smoking campaigns in the workplace as well as for the general public. A study in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2002 reported that smoking only declined in one state and actually increased in over one-third of the states. One of the primary causes of this increase is reported to be the stress and tension caused by the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. Even firefighters are smoking more after 9/11.
This connection between smoking and the inter-workings of the brain and the nervous system was highlighted in two other recent studies. A study by Harvard's Medical School estimates that 44.3% of the cigarettes smoked in the United States are smoked by people who have some type of mental illness. This research, along with many other smoker studies, points to the use of cigarettes to control mood through the stimulation and production of the feel good hormone dopamine. This bio-chemical imbalance in the brain may be caused by stress in some smokers, but it may be caused by genetic issues in others. A Japanese study has identified specific genes associated with the processing of nicotine in the body, while other similar studies have found some people to be more genetically prone to addiction than others.
What Does This Mean to Business?
The message that is emerging very slowly, but very strongly, is that all smokers are not the same and have very different levels of addiction. In fact, there are many other influencing factors beyond genetics and the level of stress a person is experiencing. According to research conducted over the past 40 years by Dr. Roger Williams and Dr. Carl Pfiffer there are many other factors that can influence a person's ability to quit smoking.
Diet - A person with a poor diet, low in antioxidant rich vegetables and high in fat and sugar, will have a much more difficult time quitting smoking.
Exercise - A person who gets very little physical activity will have more challenges than someone who exercises regularly.
Genetic Differences - Beyond the additional addictive or nicotine processing genes, some people have a smaller hypothalamus or pituitary gland than others, which may result in the production of less seratonin (another feel-good hormone).
Bio-chemical Differences - Some people are simply born with the need for more magnesium of B vitamins than other people, which Dr. Pfiffer determined, was a major cause of depression and schizophrenia.
Smoking cessation programs, whether they are in the workplace or not, never take these and other similar factors into consideration. Perhaps that is why 90% of people who try to quit smoking are smoking again within 18 months.
The Bottomline for Business - The impact of smoking on the bottom line of business is substantial. Over 35% of blue-collar workers still smoke as do 20% of white-collar workers. The statistics on absenteeism compiled by one of the large U.S. airlines is very telling
||Rate of Absenteeism
||3.86 days per year
4.53 days per year
||6.16 days per year
In terms of medical costs a smoker who quits saves his or her employer about $960 per year and over the life of an employees time in the company health care plan a quitter or a non-smoker uses from 40% to 67% less in medical benefits. These statistics are drawn form a recent report entitled Benefits of a Smoke Free Workplace.
And the final statistic worthy of consideration involves the costs of premature death caused by smoking. The U.S. Office of Technology and Assessment estimated that this cost exceeded $60 billion for businesses in 2000 due to employees dying, due to smoking, and the companies losing valuable skills and knowledge.
Investing In A Better Smoking Cessation Strategy
Many employers have declared their workplaces smoke free and this policy definitely helps reduce the exposure of non-smokers to second hand smoke, reduces the damage of smoke to equipment and reduces the number of cigarettes consumed by smokers. But this does not address the long-term health problems of smokers, ex-smokers and those who have been exposed to second hand smoke.
Many businesses have tried to implement smoking cessation programs and even provided incentives for employees who manage to quit. The success rate on such programs ranges from 5 to 20% and even with this low level of effectiveness has returned a benefit of $9.00 for every $1.00 spent on such programs. (This statistic comes from the Department of Health in Nova Scotia, Canada.)
Given the previous information on the various factors influencing smoking addiction, and the low cessation success rates, it should be obvious that most workplace cessation efforts are token efforts at best. Companies that paid for employees to use the patch to help them quit realized a mere 8% cessation rate after eight years. The current one shot program of the drug that interrupts neuroregulator activity in the brain is only realizing a 20-30% success rate after 12 months and who knows how much lower that rate will be in a few more years.
Why are all of these programs so unsuccessful? Here are some of the possible reasons.
- Employees do not receive enough education on how addiction occurs in the brain.
- Employees do not receive enough education on the role of diet and exercise in reducing cravings and strengthening the body's immune system.
- Employees do not receive enough information on natural therapies such as sauna, massage, acupuncture, hypnosis, herbs, and homeopathic remedies, all of which have strong scientific evidence behind them.
- Employees do not receive enough financial support for natural therapies and supplements, which are less expensive than pharmaceuticals and more effective.
Smoking is more addictive than heroin and yet the most effective cessation program is one that is based on the simplest, least expensive and most natural program of all. The research on these natural solutions has been done by pioneers such as Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D., Dean Ornish, M.D., Hula Cass, M.D., and James Balch, M.D. Using a natural detoxification program along with a healthy diet, herbs, supplements, exercise and natural therapies a smoker can not only kick his or her habit, they can also ensure that diseases such as cancer and heart disease will have very little chance of occurring in the future. In fact, ex-smokers and anyone subjected to second hand smoke would be wise to follow a similar health improvement program.
The program to accomplish this type of healthy smoking cessation is described in my new book The Healthy Smoker: How To Quit Smoking By Becoming Healthier First. This title may shock some readers, but it is based on my personal knowledge of several people who managed to stay very healthy in spite of their smoking habit. They accomplished this amazing feat by eating a very healthy diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, complex carbohydrates, quality protein and essential fatty acids as well as exercising daily, practicing stress reduction and taking supplements. Some of them danced and others walked or took yoga classes. When they were tested to determine their levels of oxygen and antioxidants, as well as their blood chemistry profile, they consistently scored better than almost all non-smokers tested. They were surprisingly healthy smokers.
This is not to suggest that anyone should justify smoking because they can become healthier following a certain diet or exercising more. There are still very unacceptable risks for anyone who smokes. What it does suggest is that previous smoking cessation programs have likely failed because they did not address the need to detoxify the body, improve nutritional intake, and increase the smokers level of physical activity.
There are many other reasons to engage in this more complete health improvement program beyond the benefits of reversing the addictive hold of nicotine. People who are finally able to quit become healthier day-by-day with the absence of smoking, but it can take 10 years or more to return the body to a state of health equivalent to that of a non-smoker. In fact, many smokers who quit still suffer heart attacks or get cancer due to the damage done to their bodies while they were smoking. A much healthier diet, the right supplements, exercise and periodic detoxification can decrease this recovery time, and it can reduce the probability that some disease will occur in the future. If you are going to quit, why not get all of the benefits instead of just some of them?
For more information on The Healthy Smoker program call 1-888-737-9617 or go to www.TheHealthySmoker.net
© Happy Cells, Inc., Sarasota, Florida.
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© Charles K. Bens, Ph. D.