How to Identify an Effective Smoking Cessation Program for the Workplace

Traditionally, smoking cessation programs have been perceived as more negative or punitive than engaging.  Being well-informed and creative can help inspire your employees to quit their habits.

We know that smokers are a bigger risk and have higher medical claims overall than non-smokers. That’s why wellness programs focus so heavily on encouraging people to quit. Most smokers want to stop, and each year about 50% of all smokers try to stop for good, but only 6% succeed in any given year.  It’s important to strike a balance between offering a comprehensive tobacco cessation benefit while not alienating employees who are either not ready or not interested in quitting.

According to the American Lung Association, the real costs of smoking are staggering:

  • Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans each year
  • Smoking-related illness in the U.S. costs more than $300 billion a year, including over $175 billion in direct medical care for adults and $156 billion in lost productivity
  • Employers can save nearly $6,000 per year for every employee who quits smoking

Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employee-sponsored health insurance to cover smoking cessation, we recommend employers make sure they know exactly how comprehensive their health insurance tobacco cessation benefit is.  Once you know what’s covered by your plan, what should you look for in a tobacco succession program?

Your cessation program should:

  1. Employ experienced tobacco treatment specialists who are trained in the science behind tobacco addiction, withdrawal, chronic conditions, cognitive-behavioral strategies, and are current in the latest information on tobacco use treatment.
  2. Provide information about a wide variety of medication options and usage complexities.
  3. Have the capacity to support all smokers, no matter their fears, attitudes or experiences.
  4. Offer alternative ways to connect with a coach, whether it be in-person or via email, phone, or text.
  5. Include a personal intake meeting with a certified coach to identify varied nicotine sources, because nicotine cessation has gone beyond just cigarettes, and to determine readiness to quit.
  6. Have a minimum number of touch-points with a coach
  7. Have a proven success rate (both the program and its specialists/coaches

In addition, here are some other things you can do to boost success rates:

  1. Pay for or subsidize smoking cessation programs
  2. Offer quit tobacco incentives
  3. Maintain a healthy workplace – ban smoking on your property
  4. Consider implementing or promoting other alternative benefits that can inspire and/or help employees to quit:
    • Acupuncture: to help reduce cravings and physiological effects of withdrawal while quitting.
    • Gym Membership: going to the gym on a regular basis can help distract from the process of quitting, giving people a new healthy habit.
    • Lunch & Learn / Support Meetings:Set aside time for employees to learn about quitting techniques, health benefits, or just support each other on their journey.
    • Yoga/Meditation:help with the stress of quitting

On average, smokers make six or more attempts to quit before they finally succeed. By providing effective treatment at the right time to encourage quit attempts, a program provides participants with the support needed to quit smoking for good.

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