Smokers miss an average of two or three more days of work each year than non-smokers, with this absenteeism costing the UK alone 1.4 billion pounds – or $2.25 billion – last year, according to a UK research. The study, which appeared in the journal Smoking Addiction, analysed 29 separate reports conducted between 1960 and 2011 in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the United States and Japan, with a total of approximately 71,000 public and private sector workers.
Scientists asked the workers about their current and former smoking tobacco habits and used studies or medical and employee records to track how often they were absent over an average of two years.
Current smokers were 33 per cent more likely to miss work than nonsmokers, and they were absent an amount of 2.7 extra days every year, according to Jo Leonardi-Bee of the University of Nottingham, UK. The scientists calculated that current smokers were still 19 per cent more likely to miss work than ex-smokers, so encouraging smokers to quit smoking could help revoke some of the lost-work trends.
“Quitting smoking tobacco appears to lessen absenteeism and result in substantial cost-savings for employers,” reported Leonardi-Bee and her colleagues.
The 1.4 billion pounds lost in the UK due to smoking-related absenteeism is only one cost of smoking tobacco in the workplace, according to Leonardi-Bee and her colleagues. Others include productivity lost to smoking cigarette breaks and the cost of cig, caused fire damage.
In the investigation, smoking tobacco was tied to workers’ short-term absences as well as leaves of four weeks or even more.
“Evidently the most important message for any individual’s health is, ‘Quit smoking tobacco,’ but I think that message is vigorous well out there,” explained Douglas Levy, a tobacco and public health investigator from the Harvard Medical School in Boston who wasn’t a part of the research.
“I think the recent study does point to the fact that this is something that doesn’t just affect the individual, it affects the state economy as well.”
Levy’s own study has shown that kids living with smokers are more likely to be absent from school. Secondhand tobacco smoke has been tied to a range of health ailments, from asthma to heart attacks, so employees who smoke may also have to miss work more often to stay at home with sick family members. Levy declared that the most important finding was the reduction in absenteeism after workers quit smoking, supporting the idea of tobacco companies funding smoking cessation classes and other workplace health programs.