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Smokers cost employers thousands more than nonsmokers

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TUESDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Compared to nonsmoking employees, every staff member who lights up costs their employer nearly $6,000 more each year, according to a new report.

The researchers found that more time off, smoking breaks and added health care costs were to blame for this discrepancy. The findings could have implications for smoking policies in the workplace, they suggested.

"Employees who smoke impose significant excess costs on private employers," Micah Berman, of the College of Public Health & Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, and colleagues wrote. "The results of this study may help inform employer decisions about tobacco-related policies."

For the study, the investigators analyzed previous studies in order to estimate the costs associated with employing a smoker. In making their calculation, they also analyzed absenteeism, presenteeism (lower productivity while working due to smoking-related health problems), smoking breaks, health care costs and pension benefits for smokers.

The study, published in the June 3 online edition of Tobacco Control, revealed that low productivity due to more missed days at work costs employers, on average, $517 annually for each employee that smokes. Meanwhile, presenteeism costs $462 annually for each smoker, smoking breaks cost $3,077 a year per smoker and excess health care expenses cost $2,056 annually for every employee that smokes.

Because smokers are more likely to die at a younger age than nonsmokers, annual pension costs were an average of $296 less for each employee who smoked, the researchers noted. Overall, the total estimated cost to employers was $5,816 per year.

In the United States alone, 19 percent of adults smoke, putting themselves at greater risk for cancer, heart and lung disease. Some U.S. companies avoid hiring smokers or have started charging employees who smoke higher premiums for health insurance, the researchers pointed out in a journal news release.

"It is important to remember that the costs imposed by tobacco use are not simply financial costs. It is not possible to put a price on the lost lives and the human suffering caused by smoking," Berman's team wrote. "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."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on smoking and tobacco use.

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