Direct & Indirect Cost Savings From Smoking Cessation Programs

Studies have shown that tobacco treatment is one of the most cost-effective preventive services.

the issues

A company in the Southeast established a completely smoke-free campus in 2016.  Many employees reacted with anger.  The company requested smoking cessation support to help employees either quit or develop coping strategies when at work.

Studies have shown that tobacco treatment is one of the most cost-effective preventive services. .If behavior change counseling, tips, and therapy (including over-the-counter cessation aids) were offered to all smokers, it could save $3 billion in medical care costs annually in the United States.

What are the Costs to Businesses?

  • $3,856 per smoker per year in direct medical costs and lost productivity – This is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that companies spend In 2005. The CDC concluded that each employee who smokes costs employers $1,897 in lost productivity each year and the rest in medical costs.
  • Businesses pay an average of $2,289 in workers’ compensation costs for smokers, compared with $176 for nonsmokers.
  • On average, smokers miss 6.16 days of work per year due to sickness (including smoking related acute and chronic conditions), compared to nonsmokers, who miss 3.86 days of work per year.
  • Employees who take four 10-minute smoking breaks a day actually work one month less per year than workers who don’t take smoking breaks.
  • Each employee or dependent who quits smoking reduces annual medical and life insurance costs by at least $210 almost immediately.

If all workplaces were to implement 100% smoke-free policies, the reduction in heart attack rates due to exposure to secondhand smoke would save the United States $49 million in direct medical costs within the first year alone. Savings would increase over time.

Annual Medical Savings per Smoker Who Quits

Short-Term Consequences of Smoking on Selected ConditionsAnnual Medical Savings per Smoker Who Quits
Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke$153
Adult Pneumonia$3
Low-Birth Weight Babies$9
Childhood Asthma$14
Other Childhood Respiratory Conditions$8
Childhood Otitis Media (Ear infections)$5
Annual Total$192

the goals

Help employees quit smoking or, if they chose not to quit, to develop coping strategies when at work at the non-smoking campus.the process

the process

A 10-week Smoking Cessation initiative was designed for the company based on mindfulness and group coaching techniques. The sessions provided ongoing support and information for preparing to quit and during the first stages of quitting.  

The initiative encompassed complete well-being and emphasized behavior change, stress management, resiliency, cognitive practices, tips for quitting, and adopting healthy habits. Each session built on the others and were tailored based on participant needs. Additional handouts and information were distributed and discussed based on interests and requests.

the result

13 employees participated, with 12 completing the 10 sessions. One could no longer attend due to their workload. The quit success rate was 38% with a total of 5 of the 13 participants quitting.

Estimated Return on Investment

Using the CDC costs saving information, for every dollar spent on the smoking cessation program, there is an estimated $2.10 to $3.85 return on investment for each $1 spent for program costs. This is an estimate of the savings in the first year, based on the 5 employees who quit.

The first estimate below does not consider the employee’s time to attend each session or the lunches provided.

1) 5 ROI Estimate for year 1 not including employee wages

  • Estimated Savings = $3,856/employee in first year $19,280 Potential Savings
  • Return on Investment Calculation: (Savings/Costs) $19,280/$5,000 = $3.85
  • Ratio of savings is 3.85:1. For every $1 spent the return on investment = $3.85

2) ROI including a rough estimate of employee time and lunch costs (not actual costs)

  • Employee hourly salary: $15 + $15 for benefits 12 employees at $30/hour = $3,600
  • Lunch at $5.00/employee for 10 meetings $ 600
  • Return on Investment Calculation: (Savings/Costs) $19,280/$9,200 = $2.10
  • Ratio of savings is 2.10:1. For every $1 spent the return on investment = $2.10

Value of Investment

There were several benefits in addition to ROI. Employees reported,

  • Feeling Better
  • Having More Energy
  • Not Becoming Short of Breath
  • Increased Confidence
  • Feeling Proud and Sense of Accomplishment
  • Sleeping Better
  • Being Grateful for the Opportunity

Although smoking cessation isn’t a popular request and is often reported in the literature as having a low success rate, this initiative was successful in large part due to the company’s commitment, care and support.

Follow-up is being conducted at 3, 6 and 12-month intervals. All employees have remained tobacco free and an additional employee has since quit.

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