Smoking is being banned in most workplaces for more reasons than just costing company time. Smoking is a dangerous habit that puts everyone in the workplace at risk, with second-hand smoke being the cause of cancer and lung disease in non-smokers. For this reason, companies are looking to shed the liabilities associated with smoking at work and reduce the cost of company-sponsored healthcare.
How much time are workers losing each day to smoking? In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at smoking in the workplace and how much those smoke breaks really cut into the day. We’ll also address the potential health hazards that might cause workers to need extra time off, FMLA, or other leaves of absence because of smoking.
Did you ever notice how smokers seemingly get more breaks than everyone else to address their habit? This isn’t always the case, of course, but there are some workplaces that are much more lenient than others when it comes to smoking. Either way, those breaks usually end up being longer than the 15 or 20 minutes they’re supposed to be.
Smoke breaks, regardless of how short they are, still cut into the day’s productivity. If you’re going outside to smoke, you’re breaking concentration, leaving whatever you were doing behind to go all the way outside to light up. Those few minutes add up throughout the day, and the next thing you know, you’ve spent well over an hour of your day outside smoking.
Let’s say your employee makes $15 per hour. They’ve spent about one and a half hours in total today and the last four days of the week taking smoke breaks. That’s five days, at 1.5 hours per day, $15 per hour, for a total of $112 this week. And that’s just in time costs, that doesn’t even address the drop in productivity and the potential loss of more time in the future to recover that lost productivity.
Most companies are implementing strict no-smoking policies or changing their break policies. It’s best to not extend special privileges to smokers, not only because you could earn the resentment of non-smokers (why does he get more breaks than I do?), but also because you’re simply not being fair. Everyone should have access to the same break times.
A Recurring Cost
Using our same example of 1.5 hours per day, the total for the year comes out to about 390 hours per year spent smoking. At $15 per hour, you’re looking at well over $5,000 per year that your organization is losing to smoke breaks. And the worst part of it is that the cost will continue unless the smoker quits; which is quite unlikely.
Only a small percentage of smokers ever actually quit. Alternative products like tobaccoless pouches, nicotine gum, and even nicotine replacement therapy have made quitting cigarettes much easier, but nicotine is so addictive that many smokers are never able to leave the habit behind.
In fact, only around 7.5% of adult smokers in 2018 actually quit smoking for good. That’s not exactly an uplifting number, is it? Even so, we should be glad that even that many people are quitting when the very habit itself is designed to keep smokers hooked for life.
Tobacco plants have been genetically modified in some cases to contain up to twice as much nicotine, and the tobacco industry has spent billions trying to convince the public that their products aren’t as harmful as science would have us believe.
It Really Is That Bad
Despite the tobacco industry’s best efforts, there’s no way to hide just how bad cigarettes are for personal and public health. Second-hand smoke is a killer in its own right, being a direct cause of many of the same ailments that smokers suffer from. It’s often brushed off as “not that bad” or “it’s only a little smoke”, but the banning of smoking in many public places speaks for itself.
This is why so many workplaces are banning smoking as well. It puts other employees at risk, and there’s a potential for liability suits should a non-smoking worker become ill due to another employee’s smoking habit. The workplace can be held responsible for not providing a “safe work environment”.
The Bottom Line
If you’re running a business, it’s best to ban smoking altogether on company grounds. Not only will you save hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in labor costs, but you’ll also remove the potential liability of allowing smoking in the workplace. Let’s be honest; those smoke breaks really cut into the workday and affect productivity. The only way to save time, money, and labor, is to take a stand against smoking. You could even offer incentives to employees if they quit altogether. Some companies offer PTO or even a cash bonus to employees as part of a healthy workplace initiative.