This Is How Much It Costs When Your Employees Smoke

Add up the cost of extra health care, smoke breaks, absenteeism, and lowered productivity, and smokers start to look like a pretty hefty business expense.

More and more companies are discriminating against smokers, either by not hiring them at all (in states where that’s allowed) or making every effort to get them to stop. It’s not particularly nice. But financially, it makes sense.

Smokers cost employers a lot of money—$5,816 a year compared to someone who has never smoked, to be exact. The number comes from new research that tallies the cost of smoke breaks (the biggest expense, at $3,077), additional health care ($2,056), absenteeism ($517), and lower productivity ($462).

Led by Micah Berman, a professor of public health at New England Law, the study reviews previous work on the economics of smoking. As it turns out, smokers aren’t always a net drag. Because they die younger, they tax pension systems for less time—meaning a $296 per year savings overall. Smokers effectively subsidize non-smokers’ retirement.

The most important question may be what companies should do about smokers. Berman recommends sympathy and understanding, while still doing everything to help along the quitting process.

"Most people who smoke started when they were kids and the vast majority of them want to quit and are struggling to do so," he says in a statement. "This is a place where business interests and public health align. In addition to cutting costs, employers can help their employees lead healthier and longer lives by eliminating tobacco from the workplace."

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  • Henrique Ventura

    This would have been interesting 50 years ago, when there were few intellectual and creative jobs. As far as I know, productivity is far from being related to the total number of hours worked.

    One can take 10 breaks a day (smoking, coffee, eating, etc.) and still be more productive than the ones that barely take breaks or take no breaks at all.

    Actually, there's a lot of science that backs up the fact that breaks are increasingly important to working productivity, creativity and mindfullness at work.

    Smoking is bad for a large number of reasons, But contrary to what's said in this article, it doesn't hurt productivity. At all.

  • Guest

    Exactly- have a co-worker that needs to take a smoko at least once an hour. I think coffee breaks etc are different coz not many people drop everything, no matter if they're right in the middle of a super-important task with a tight deadline, just to go out for a 10 minute break. It means the rest of the team has to wait on them and it's really frustrating.

  • Ben A.

    As a non-smoker, I must say this article is a bit ridiculous and another sign of nannyism like what Bloomberg is trying to do to New York.

    It sounds to me that this article is all about money and not treating people like people at all, but as a cost of doing business.

    If that is the case, why hire a human at all? I know some human likes to spend time in "unhelthy" activity like drinking non-diet soda all day long, eating 10 slices of bacons for lunch not to mention never excercise a day in their life.

    What's next? Using your logic, we know that certain people are predisposed to genetic diseases. So as employeers, these kind of people must be singled out and receive special help because after all they cost more compared to people who are not predisposed to certain geneetic diseases. In addition, these people that are predispoed to genetic diseases tent to be absent more (hospital runs), and they lower producitity (being sick all the time).

  • Christopher Richards

    You are entilted (in theory) to 15 minuets break in the morning and afternoon from your desk (particularly if you are working with a VDU) and an hour's lunch; so why not take up the oppourtunity to smoke then?

    On a cynical note, are the staff as part of their "wasted" timed every time they want to go to the toilet?

    At the other end of the scale of course, these neurotic employers, who are so busy watching clocks and seeing how "effective" they can be with minimum number of staff, are the same ones who expect you to stay behind after your official finnishing time or be in before your official start time, commencing work immediately on arrival.

    I think these employers who are so worried about the time lost for people getting a drink of water, or going for a smoke, do not add up the time that EVERYONE gives to their company or business  in terms of work over and above their assigned contract working hours.

    Sorry employers, but you can't have it both way !

  • jfort

    This is the most ignorant post I've ever read. Why not write about the people who take an extra 5 minutes a day on their lunch break because they need to get Starbucks on the way back to the office. Is Starbucks drinking going to effect hiring next?

  • Jeff S

    Characterizing smoke breaks as flat out wasted time is a ridiculous notion.  Smokers often use smoke breaks to get away from their desk and collect their thoughts, or to discuss issues with coworkers in a less formal non-meeting setting.  This is no different than a coffee or snack break or a water cooler conversation (except for the stigma of smokers being bad people).  Having quit smoking, I find myself needing to get away from my desk and get an ice cream or go for a short walk just as frequently.  I even go down with smokers to talk with them around the smoking post to maintain a social interaction with staff from other departments and find out what others are working on.  And as a single person, I don't take near as much sick days as staff with children and family obligations who are a much larger drag on productivity than smokers.

  • Neane15 (Nancy)

    smoking has been such an integral part of my time. I recently learned from a medical standpoint that it increases dopamine in the brain, thus creating the illusion of "happy" As I work to ween this habit, I figure, the happiness of working as a team and contributing, being creative and developing ideas, can form it's own dopamine uptake!

  • FlavaBc

    It's the incessant need to go for a smoke break every 1-3 hours. Sure, everybody needs a break every now and then but smokers have a chemical dependency that needs to be addressed by inhaling ash & smoke every few hours or else they get cranky.