Smoking cessation benefits your employees and your business

For the most part discouraged by society, smoking has changed thanks to policies and practices in the private and public sectors combined with a strong focus on public education on the detrimental effects of smoking on long-term health. As a result, we’ve seen a significant decline of smokers in Canada over the last few decades. In fact, between 2001 and 2014, the percentage of men smoking dropped from 28% to about 21%, and the percentage of women smokers dropped from 24% to 14.8%1.

Despite such improvements, roughly four million Canadians are still smokers; of those attempting to quit, up to 80% relapse. According to Statistics Canada, smokers have a 60% greater likelihood of being diagnosed with or dying from heart disease compared to non-smokers. In addition, the same research shows that it takes at least 20 years of continuous non-smoking for the risk of heart disease to decrease below the rate of a daily smoker2.

Smoking is highly addictive, making it difficult for individuals to quit, despite the health benefits. Some studies suggest that smoking actually weakens certain neural connections in the brain, making it less responsive to ‘executive’ commands, which may explain the difficulty in resisting the urge to smoke3.

As difficult as it is, quitting smoking is possible – and people are successful all the time. Creating a ‘quit-smoking plan’ can improve a person’s chances of quitting for good. An individual trying to quit will face cravings, withdrawal symptoms and possible relapses, so a plan helps to cope with the physical and emotional issues that often arise when a person stops smoking4.

Supporting your employees’ efforts to quit smoking is an investment worth its return. If employees who smoke are helped to quit, employers may see an increase in productivity and a decrease in the number of sick days employees take5. The workplace can be a supportive social environment for those attempting to quit smoking. There, they can get support from those who have successfully quit  and from those who promote health in the workplace.

Companies that care about the health of their employees portray a positive image within the workplace and the larger community. A positive image helps to attract and retain talented workers. Those that go beyond this by offering smoking cessation support display an even greater commitment to the overall health and welfare of their employees.

Smoking cessation programs for your employees are available through Manulife’s Employee and Family Assistance Program. For more information contact your Manulife representative.

1Stats Can – Smoking, 2014 (Health Fact Sheet 820625-X).

2Stats Can - Shields and Wilkins, Smoking, smoking cessation and heart disease risk: a 16 year follow up study.

3 JAMA Psychiatry, March 2014 - Dr. C. Lerman, University of Pennsylvania, Brain and Behaviour Change Program.

4,5Stats Can – Smoking Cessation in the Workplace: A Guide to Helping Your Employees Quit Smoking. 2008, ISBN: 978 0-662-4473404.