• Health Care Innovation

    Finding another reason to quit: How employers can drive smoking cessation

     

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    November 23, 2013

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    We all know the impact smoking can have on health, but did you know smoking can cause serious stress to your company’s budget?

    A recent study found that smokers cost employers $6,000 a year more than non-smoking employees. There are many ways employers can help reduce smoking-related costs and encourage healthier habits among employees. Let’s take a look at a few ways to get started.

    Policy change

    Consider implementing a smoke-free policy at your workplace. Most smoke-free policies prohibit smoking in company facilities and vehicles, and require employees to smoke only in designated areas – for example, a smoking station set up in the parking lot. This will help reduce the risk of secondhand smoke in the workplace, and the hassle may discourage employees from smoking during the workday in the first place. There are a number of actions you should take when implementing a policy change to ensure it makes sense for your company, and is understood and accepted by employees. The American Cancer Society offers helpful tips for establishing effective policy change.

    Incentivized smoking cessation programs

    Incentivized smoking cessation programs offer employees the necessary support to reduce or eliminate tobacco use, with the opportunity to receive rewards from their employer. Employers are now able to offer incentives, such as discounts on the cost of premiums, valued at up to 50 percent of the total cost of health insurance, to employees who successfully participate in a smoking cessation program. When establishing a smoking cessation program, there are plenty of options to consider.

    A popular format that has proven successful is a personalized coaching program. Employees start the program by meeting individually (either in-person or on the phone) with a health coach to set up a quit plan. During this meeting, a technique called motivational interviewing is often used to engage the person’s intrinsic motivation. Coaches provide employees with additional resources and support, and conduct follow-up calls to monitor progress. Other effective forms of smoking cessation programs include monthly group counseling programs, and online support forums along with supplemental classes, such as yoga and meditation, to help employees manage the stress and anxiety that can accompany quitting.

    Most health insurance companies offer smoking cessation programs that can be tied to compliance and incentives. Employees either self-report tobacco use through a health assessment, or receive a blood test from their physician. If you’re not sure where to start, a good first step is to connect with a health care professional, look into your state/national quit tobacco resources, or talk to your health insurance company about available options.

    What ideas do you have for creating a smoke-free workplace? Leave your thoughts in the comments section. And get involved with our ongoing conversation about workplace wellness by joining the Leading Michigan to a Healthier Future group page on LinkedIn.

    Photo Credit: Justin Shearer

    About Cindy Bjorkquist, M.S. Cindy Bjorkquist is the Director of Wellness, Care Management and Health Promotion Program Development for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM). She is responsible for the development and lifecycle process for clinical member-facing programs as well as contracting and management for any vendor programs for all market segments including commercial, individual and Medicare programs. Cindy has more than 24 years of experience in the design, delivery and evaluation of integrated wellness and care management programs for hospitals, corporate entities and health plans. Cindy lectures regularly on a national level and holds a master of science in exercise physiology, corporate health management, from Michigan State University and a bachelor of arts in exercise in sports science and biology from Spring Arbor University. To connect with Cindy and discuss Michigan workplace wellness, join the Leading Michigan to a Healthier Future LinkedIn group.

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