Hiring a smoker costs bosses $6,000 a year

A new study says employee tobacco use can lead to absenteeism, lost productivity, smoking breaks and health care expenditures.

By Bruce Kennedy Jun 4, 2013 4:31PM

Credit: © Vicente Alfonso/Getty Images
Caption: A hand and a cigaretteA decade ago, the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control estimated cigarette smoking was responsible for $193 billion in annual, health-related economic losses in America -- about $96 billion in direct medical costs and an additional $97 billion in lost productivity.

Now a new study has broken down the yearly costs associated with hiring a smoker compared with a nonsmoker. According to researchers at Ohio State University, U.S. businesses pay an additional $6,000 or so annually per smoker due to factors like absenteeism, lost productivity, smoking breaks and health care costs.

Smoking breaks are reportedly the biggest cost, accounting for nearly $3,100 per employee annually.

"When people are taking smoke breaks, that actually adds up to a decent amount of cost to the employer," Micah Berman, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of health services management and public policy, told The Columbus Dispatch.

And there are also on-the-job costs. "Even if (smokers) are at work, they're essentially going through nicotine withdrawal," Berman said. "It actually causes a measurable reduction in productivity."

The study's press statement says the research focuses solely on economics -- and doesn't look at any ethical and privacy issues related to workplace smoking policies.

But it also notes more businesses are adopting "tobacco-related policies that include requiring smokers to pay premium surcharges for their health-care benefits or simply refusing to hire people who identify themselves as smokers."

One such company, Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG), doesn't hire smokers in Ohio -- and company spokesman Lance Latham says the number of its smoking employees has dropped from 30% to around 5% since the ban went in place.

"Overall, our health care cost increases and premium increases have trended below the national average," Latham said in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch. "We think that’s a combination of our tobacco and wellness policies."

At the same time, the researchers acknowledge that providing smoking-cessation programs can amount to an additional cost for employers.

"Employers should be understanding about how difficult it is to quit smoking and how much support is needed," Berman said. "It’s definitely not just a cost issue, but employers should be informed about what the costs are when they are considering these policies."

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Jun 4, 2013 6:12PM

Not sure why smokers are being singled out again. I see more issues with smart phones taking up work time than anything else.  

Jun 4, 2013 5:36PM
What's next ?  A study showing that overweight people cost more ?  Tall people?  Short people ?  Left-handed people ?  Causasians ?  Asians ?  You can make numbers say anything you want  I knew plenty of non-smokers that cost that company a whole lot more more by using ALL of their sick time year after year when there was nothing wrong with them in the first place.
Jun 4, 2013 5:36PM
think you would ever hear a story about certain ethnic groups that cost employers more than others? how about a pregnancy? fat people? stop and pray to allah?   nope just the evil smokers!!!!
Jun 4, 2013 5:59PM
Stop it with the smokers.   What about the druggies and drinkers. Enough.  Don't judge me
Jun 4, 2013 5:26PM
I didn't realize any employers provided any insurance any more. Guess a person is lucky if he /she works for one. Glad I am retired!
Jun 4, 2013 6:08PM
This is bullcrap. I smoked for over 50 years. The only time I missed work or school (college) was because I was hung over. I have not missed a days work for being sick or late to work for 21 years or more. There are more medical, work and other issues caused by alcohol than cigarettes. How many people are killed by smoking drivers every year, none. How many people lose their driving license for driving while smoking, none. How many wives get beat up because their husbands or boy friends had one too many cigarettes, none. They should tax the crap out of booze but there would be a bunch of dead politicians if they did. If you levied a "fee" on people who drink, we would have a revolution. I have quit smoking but for a bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with my job or health. Basically I couldn't afford it any longer. We don't have the Mafia of old where I could get the cigarettes that "fell off the truck" and there are nott too many "Vinnys" or "Carmines" out here on the left coast like the ones on the right coast where I grew up.
Jun 4, 2013 6:04PM
Ok, I 'm tired of them picking on smokers. How about drunks and drug takers....
Jun 4, 2013 6:45PM
That's a crock, having employees that drink alcohol cost more.  I have been an owner for years and I can tell you first hand a drunk cost more than a smoker.  much much more.
Jun 4, 2013 6:21PM
do any of these idiots realize how much tax money will be lost if they get everyone to quit smoking??? what you gonna tax wildly then, candy, toilet paper? get a grip people, smokers foot the bill for a lot of useless govt. freebees!!!!!!
Jun 4, 2013 5:47PM

My Husband started at his Job 28 years ago! He started at minimum wage but is now making over 65K per year! I know that is not what some would call a very good pay, but the benefits make up for it!He stayed at this job and worked hard to get where he is now! It gave us the means to raise our girls in a nice area, and afforded us to buy a house and our cars! Our girls went to a Jr college and have good paying jobs! I believe that if people want to work a good job, then do what it takes to get there! I find that some people would rather ride the free train than work for a living! I know people on food stamps and assistance they say that if they get  get a job they lose their food stamps and government check! These are the ones that I am sick and tired of supporting!!! Get off ya butts and get a job and stay with it long enough to advance, just as my Husband did!!


Jun 4, 2013 5:03PM
This is exactly why our economy is going to hell in a hand basket.  It has been common knowledge among us workers that the smokers did all of the work.  Now we won't get anything done if they don't hire some smokers.
Jun 4, 2013 7:09PM
BULL SH*T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Where I used to work, almost everybody smoked.  They were ALWAYS AT WORK.  The people that were always taking off time were THE FAT PEOPLE and the ALCOHOLICS. I worked outside, and NEVER quit what I was doing to take a SMOKE BREAK.  FAT PEOPLE  use 80% of all medical resources.  LESS THAN 10% OF SMOKERS ever get cancer or emphysema.  GIVE ME A BREAK!  I have smoked for 50 years, have never been in the hospital except for surgery and NEVER MISSED A DAY OF WORK except for weather. I am almost 70, still work every day, and can still out work most people that are 1/3 my age and for sure can out work ANY FAT PERSON.
Jun 4, 2013 6:48PM
I am tired of people picking on smokers. I thought we lived in a free country! I can,t even find a place to live with my children cause I smoke and I do smoke outside.i have never drank or did drugs never been in trouble other than a speeding ticket but im the bad one. I grew up with drinking parents I would rather have parents that smoke outside than drunks. Lets think about that for a second.
Jun 4, 2013 7:00PM

I think the only smoker here is an ex-Marine who shows up on time, doesn't miss work, and is the first one to have all his paperwork done each week, and I can't remember the last time he was sick or made an excuse for that matter. Seems like "absenteeism, lost productivity, smoking breaks and health care expenditures" is a little bit of a gray area.

Jun 4, 2013 7:01PM
this is the new health care system, lets dysfunctionalize everyone.  Now they are saying that those that drink coffee have an actual mental illness when they "crash" from the caffeine.  I don't know where this is headed because there is no one who is perfect.  Have also noticed the hostility behind alot of these new health revelations.  It has become so judgemental, as well as placing personal blame on everything we do.  Eat a yolk and your not taking care of your heart, eat something sweet your a diabetes risk, have sex your a walking disease, it goes on and on. 
Jun 4, 2013 6:09PM
You only realize what a stinking, nasty addiction smoking is after you quit.  I quit in 1998.  Yes, it was damn hard, as I was smoking 3 packs a day.  But I am so, so very glad I did it.  Now when I smell cig smoke, it really bothers me.  I have chronic bronchitis from it.  You will notice I did not call it a "habit".  It is much worse than a habit, it is an addiction.  Smokers are drug addicts, period.  So do yourself a favor, buy the patch or whatever it takes, and get off the things.
Jun 4, 2013 6:43PM

Another prejudiced biased reporter making up the facts as he writes the story. Funny, the vast majority of people I’ve noticed that miss work due to illness or work related accidents are the non-smokers and non-drinkers, not the other way around.

Jun 4, 2013 6:13PM

this article is full of beans, who writes this kind of crap, everyone knows that smokers do all the work, because they never get tired. If your a tall smoker you do more work because your way up there hahaha. Leave smokers alone, Stop whinning about every little ol thing,  

Jun 4, 2013 7:33PM
You know this is getting ****ing ridiculous. I don't smoke anymore, but I can honestly tell you all, it's a bad habit that can kill you, but a better reason to stop is to shut all the ****ing holier than thou imbeciles that you'll surely encounter up. It really is something for some people that are fat or have other problems to sit around and say, "Well, at least I don't smoke" to themselves to feel superior to those that do. I do think that it should be stopped for health reasons. But, the lengths some ****s go to, just to punish people who smoke are idiotic.
Jun 4, 2013 7:57PM

I am tired of smokers being singled out..Aren't they happy with the no smoking now in some restaurants and bars?   When is enough?  smokling is blamed for everything.  What about the canned food, all the sodium and some are even to cause cancer, the bottled water causes cancer, etc.  Smoking does not cause missing work anymore than drinkers with hangovers, overeaters too tired to get up and move, dr. appts for colds and flu and appts for damage the workplace does to us,  come on...get real.   Look how the casinos mess up ppl's lives that cannot control the gambling.  I know too many non smokers with cancer, copd, etc.   Where is our free to live as we want?


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