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Cigarette smoking is the top preventable cause of death in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Tobacco use leads directly to the No. 1 killers: heart disease, cancer (lung and throat from smoking; mouth, throat and stomach from
smokeless tobacco), stroke, and chronic respiratory disease.
"Tobacco kills more people in the U.S. each year than alcohol, cocaine, crack, heroin, AIDS, suicide, automobile accidents and fires combined," stressed Eduardo Sanchez, chairman of the
National Commission on Prevention Priorities, as he addressed the
3rd Annual Employer Health & Human Capital Congress, held January/February 2008 in Washington, D.C.
Sanchez, also director of the Institute for Health Policy at the University of Texas School of Public Health, described how providing tobacco-cessation programs can improve employee health and save lives, while cutting health care dollars and improving employers' bottom lines.
Policies that have proved effective, he noted, typically include:
As an indication of the return on investment to employers from such efforts, Sanchez cited
research by the Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, revealing that:
Creating a Quitting Culture
Ann Skye, the manager of employee wellness at pharmaceutical services firm Quintiles Transnational Corp, told the conference how a tobacco-cessation program she helped put in place builds on all of the key points outlined by Sanchez.
For example, at Quintiles, the program includes:
To spur participation in tobacco-cessation programs, effective messaging and employee recognition as part of a "quitting culture" are vitally important, Skye noted. (This is especially true in companies with a unionized workforce subject to collective bargaining agreements, where employers may lack the ability to offer monetary incentives, including health care premium reductions).
At Quintiles, Skye says, "We are creating a culture that celebrates success in quitting. We have certificates available for participants to post, signed by our chief medical officer. We also have a wellness web site with inspirational stories for those who want to share their quitting experience with others."
In addition, "We send postcards to the home so that spouses and dependents are aware of the Quitline. We also provide full, no-cost coverage to prescription tobacco-cessation medications for covered spouses and dependents as well.”
Skye reported the following timeline and metrics from Quntiles' program:
July 2007 online survey:
December 2007 online survey:
At the start, "We had a lot of spirited debate among our employees," Skye said, "but high acceptance as well for both the services and the tobacco-free policy." All in all, she reflected, getting underway and reaping the rewards of better employee health and cost savings "was much easier than we anticipated it would be."
Partnership for Prevention web site provides many helpful resources for launching a smoking-cessation program, including:
Another helpful site is the
American Legacy Foundation, where resources include:
Finally, to receive additional information and resources on this topic, visit:
Stephen Miller is manager of SHRM Online's Compensation & Benefits Focus Area.
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