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Smokers Cost Employers Extra $6,000 a Year: Study

First Posted: Jun 04, 2013 05:53 AM EDT

A latest study reveals that U.S. businesses pay almost $6,000 extra per year for each employee who smokes, when compared to the cost of employing a person who has never smoked, according to a news release.

This is the first study that takes a complete look at the financial burden for companies that hire smokers. The study was based on studies conducted earlier that looked into the costs of absenteeism, productivity loss, and breaks taken for smoking along with the health care costs. Based on this, the researchers produced an estimate that employees who smoke cost an employer an average of $5,816 annually when compared to those who never smoked. This annual cost can vary from $2,885 to $10,125.

According to the annual estimates per smoker, excess absenteeism costs an average of $517 per year; "presenteeism", or reduced productivity related to the effects of nicotine addiction, $462; smoke breaks, $3,077; and extra health care costs (for self-insured employers), $2,056.

Smoke breaks were a major factor for the highest cost in lost productivity and the next factor after smoke breaks was expenses of health care, which cross the insurance cost for non-smokers.

According to Micah Berman, who will soon be assistant professor of health services management and policy in the Ohio State University College of Public Health, the analysis was done based on the costs for private sector employers, but this finding is applicable to the public sector as well.

"This research should help businesses make better informed decisions about their tobacco policies," said Berman in a press statement. "We constructed our calculations such that individual employers can plug in their own expenses to get more accurate estimates of their own costs."

The study report suggests that more businesses are intoducing policies concerning use of tobacco that require the smokers to pay some premium surcharges that are kept for their health care benefits, or they avoid hiring people who declare themselves as smokers.

Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that companies provide smoking cessation programs that will help employees kick the butt, though that may increase company costs.

The study was published in the journal Tobacco Control.

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