News and Events

Helping Employees Quit Tobacco
November 15, 2018

More times than not employees are a valuable resource in every business and although fewer people today are smoking, employees who smoke or vape* during work hours can cost employers $4,056 in lost productivity annually. This is a result of frequent smoke breaks, increased number of sick days, and distraction. Health care costs can increase by as much as $2,056 per smoking employee for a total of $6,112. A hidden cost is low morale among non-smokers who are likely being asked to cover for the co-worker who is outside smoking. Could this be your worksite?

Smoking is an addiction, not a habit. So how do employers help employees quit tobacco? Number one; employees are never asked to quit. Environment and a culture of support for wellness creates a climate of change for smokers. This is easily accomplished with a Tobacco Free Policy. Every business has a set of rules for employees regardless of industry. Every set of rules should include a policy addressing tobacco use while on duty or on property. “When we work with businesses who either have a desire to because a tobacco free worksite or have a large number of employees who use tobacco products it’s the first thing we tell them. In addition to providing cessation resources you have to create a work culture and environment that promotes wellness while simultaneously banning the use and ‘need’ of tobacco products,” commented Joey O’Hern, Columbia County Tobacco Prevention Specialist.

Developing a Tobacco Control Policy is a legal and moral responsibility. The Florida Clean Indoor Act (Florida Statute 386.201 – 386.2125) bans smoking in an enclosed indoor work place. A key requirement is for the person in charge of an enclosed indoor workplace to develop and implement a policy regarding smoking prohibitions. A well written policy protects non-smokers and offers smokers support via continuous cessation opportunities. The policy sets the expectation, promotes wellness, communicates cessation opportunities, and is equitable for all employees.

How do employers write a policy? Each policy should begin with a statement of purpose or rationale explaining the goal of the policy. Who does the policy apply to? Employees? Or everyone who comes on the property? What areas of the property are covered by the policy? Are vehicles covered? What are the rules? Are there designated smoking areas? How many breaks are allowed for all employees? What terms are defined? Will today’s definitions cover tomorrow’s new tobacco product? What is the date of implementation? How is the policy enforced and by whom?

Businesses and nonprofit agencies in Columbia County have consulted with QuitDoc Foundation’s Tobacco Prevention Specialist to refine their tobacco control policies and increase cessation opportunities for employees. Among them were Columbia County School District as well various day care and health care providers throughout the area. Recently, the City of Lake City has also shown interest in receiving more information regarding cessation services for it’s employees!

What do they say about tobacco control policies? Many of these businesses thought there would be tremendous push back from smokers when they became a 100% Tobacco Free Campus, however there were no repercussions. Various businesses and agencies throughout Columbia County participate in Great American Smokeout activities annually to emphasize their commitment to helping employees who want to quit.

Initiating a Tobacco Control Policy is not punitive. In fact, it treats all employees impartially. It is good business. A Tobacco Control policy is an important step towards a healthy lifestyle for all while supporting valuable resources and maintaining the health of business.

For more information on developing a tobacco free workplace policy, contact Columbia Tobacco Prevention Specialist, Joey O’Hern at; 352.316.2463. Click  and visit us on Facebook.

*Florida’s Amendment 9 to the Constitution banning vaping where smoking is banned passed and will go into effect no later than July 1, 2019. For purposes of this article the term ‘smoking’ shall also mean ‘vaping’ or using electronic nicotine dispensing systems.