Globally, tobacco usage causes six million deaths per year, which translates into one death every five seconds. Although there are several types of tobacco products on the market, cigarettes are the most widely consumed. And while the number of smokers in the U.S. is on the decline, smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and much of the world.
According to the American Lung Association, smoking is associated with lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), heart disease, stroke, asthma, diabetes, premature birth and more than 10 other types of cancers. In light of rising health care costs, some employers have opted to charge smokers higher health insurance premiums to deter smoking as well as to recover associated costs.
Employers are also providing access to smoking cessation programs to help employees quit smoking. The 2018 Employee Benefits Survey released by the Society for Human Resources Management shows 40% of employers offer access to smoking cessation programs and 10% offer a discounted health insurance premium to employees participating in a smoking cessation program. Employers can save an estimated $6000 dollars per year for every employee who quits smoking.
“Smoking cessation programs save employers money in terms of health-related costs, but there are other benefits as well. For example, employees are typically more productive and experience fewer absences once they quit smoking,” explains Ashley Miller, MPH, NBC-HWC, CHES, ACC. Ashley is a Wellness Manager for Workplace Options, an organization that provides employee wellbeing support internationally, including tobacco cessation support.
“At Workplace Options, our National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coaches are trained in evidence-based behavior change models to deliver personalized tobacco cessation support,” explains Ashley. “There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to this problem,” explains Ashley. “It’s complicated and it’s challenging, so our approach has to be person-centered.”
A person-centered approach includes helping employees identify the following:
Reason to quit – Most smokers have tried to quit multiple times, and have a lot of reasons why they want to quit. Coaches work with smokers to identify the key motivator(s) behind their desire to quit. What do they want more than a cigarette? It may be more money at the end of the month or a desire to see their grandkids grow up.
Coaches also collaborate with smokers to identify reasons they are reluctant to give up smoking. Are they concerned about gaining weight? Will they miss smoke breaks? Are they worried about losing friends? By identifying barriers to change and experimenting with healthy solutions, a smoker is better equipped to fight the temptation to smoke.
For example, if an employee shared that his greatest challenge was not smoking during his commute, the coach would partner with him to explore this trigger. The coach would ask questions to identify what it was about the commute that triggered his urge to smoke. Was dealing with traffic the issue? Boredom? Does the car smell like smoke or does he commute with another smoker? Coaches will work with each participant to identify their urges and supplement healthier behaviors.
Support system – It’s important that someone trying to quit smoking has encouraging people around to offer support. A coach can help the employee identify who would be a good cheerleader, who could hold him accountable and what that accountability looks like to them. A coach can also identify available support groups.
Potential over-the-counter and prescription-based solutions – Behavioral support (coaching) and medication are both effective when used by themselves for treating tobacco dependence. However, the combination of behavioral support and medication is more effective than either used alone.
Coaches at Workplace Options participate in ongoing continuing education to be able to speak to FDA-approved smoking cessation products including over-the-counter and prescription-based cessation medications in the US. Because Workplace Options provides global tobacco cessation support, coaches are also able to speak to different tobacco products used by employees in their respective countries and guide them towards tobacco cessation options and strategies.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.