Developing & Implementing a
Tobacco-free/Smoke-free Workplace

Tobacco-free or smoke-free workplaces are good for health and good for business.

A tobacco-free workplace is one of the most effective and lasting approaches to reducing employee tobacco use and eliminating non-smoking employees' exposure to secondhand smoke. Tobacco-free workplaces save lives and save money by:

  • Protecting the health of all workers;
  • Supporting employees who are trying to quit smoking or smoke less;
  • Reducing maintenance and health care insurance costs;
  • Preventing nonsmokers from starting to smoke; and
  • Attracting nonsmokers to your work force.

Many people have higher levels of exposure to secondhand smoke than they realize, especially if they work in places that allow smoking. In North Carolina state government workplaces, schools, restaurants and bars are smoke-free due to the state's smoke-free law, and many local government buildings and some grounds are smoke-free because of local regulations. Many workplaces have adopted voluntary tobacco-free or smoke-free polices. However, many workplaces still allow smoking. Since people spend most of their waking hours at work, smoking in the workplace causes tremendous damage to employers and employees alike.

In June 2006, the U.S. Surgeon General issued "A Report of the Surgeon General: The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke." This report updated the evidence of the harmful effects of involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke.

Six Major Conclusions of the 2006 Surgeon General's Report

  1. Secondhand smoke causes premature death and disease in children and in adults who do not smoke.
  2. Children exposed to secondhand smoke are at an increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems, and more severe asthma. Smoking by parents causes respiratory symptoms and slows lung growth in their children.
  3. Exposure of adults to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and causes coronary heart disease and lung cancer.
  4. The scientific evidence indicates that there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.
  5. Millions of Americans, both adults and children, are still exposed to secondhand smoke in their homes and workplaces despite substantial progress in tobacco control.
  6. Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces fully protects nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. Separating smokers from nonsmokers, cleaning the air, and ventilating buildings cannot eliminate exposures of nonsmokers to secondhand smoke.

Costs of On-the-Job Tobacco Use

Costs to Employers

Smokers cost more than nonsmokers. The costs of employee tobacco use and secondhand smoke to the employer are significant. Direct costs to the employer include health care costs associated with tobacco use. Indirect costs include lost productivity, absenteeism, and recruitment and retaining costs resulting from death and disability related to smoking. Following is a list of some of the factors that contribute to smokers costing employers more than nonsmokers:

  • Absenteeism
  • Lost productivity
  • Health insurance and life insurance costs and claims
  • Worker's compensation payments and occupational health awards
  • Accidents and fires (plus related insurance costs)
  • Property damage (plus related insurance costs)
  • Smoke pollution (increased cleaning and maintenance costs)
  • Illness and discomfort among nonsmokers exposed to passive smoke

The cost to employers of employees who use tobacco is not a simple number; many factors and variables need to be considered. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each smoker costs about $1,760 in lost productivity and $1,623 in excess medical expenditures. Combined, the excess cost to employers increases to approximately $3,400 per year per smoking employee.

Economic Effects of Smoking and Secondhand Smoke in North Carolina Eliminating tobacco use in all NC workplaces will not only eliminate exposure to a known health hazard, but will also help those who want to quit.

  • Total health care costs in North Carolina directly caused by smoking are estimated at $2.46 billion.
  • Total losses in productivity in North Carolina caused by smoking are estimated at $3.50 billion.

Secondhand smoke is associated with increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease, and increased rates of fetal and infant death. Total annual costs for conditions with well-documented increases in morbidity, excluding economic losses related to pregnancy and the newborn, are estimated at over $5 billion in direct medical costs and over $5 billion in indirect costs nationwide

In addition, health care costs for secondhand smoke are estimated to be in excess of $293.3 million per year in North Carolina 

Major costs include:

  • $76 million due to Low Birth Weight babies $27 million due to asthma (age birth to 17)
  • $32 million due to lung cancer
  • $132 million due to MI and other heart diseases

Other non-health costs from tobacco use include residential and commercial property losses from smoking-caused fires (more than $500 million per year nationwide); extra cleaning and maintenance costs made necessary by tobacco smoke and litter (about $4+ billion nationwide for commercial establishments alone); and additional productivity losses from smoking-caused work absences, smoking breaks, and on-the-job performance declines and early termination of employment caused by smoking-caused disability or illness.

Your policy can save you money while making your workplace a healthier one.

Why consider tobacco-free and not only smoke-free?

By including all tobacco products in your policy, you demonstrate to your employees and to your community that your workplace actively supports wellness and tobacco-free living.

Such a policy also shows that you understand that smokeless tobacco products are not a safe substitute for cigarette smoking and that you are aware of the fact that such products:

  • Can contain as many as 28 cancer-causing chemicals,
  • Can deliver 3-4 times the amount of nicotine delivered by a single cigarette,
  • Can cause heart disease and stroke, as well as head and neck cancers, tooth loss and other dental problems, and
  • Can be as addictive, or even more addictive, than cigarettes or cigars.