Hospitality and Tourism employers are taking notice of a workplace pastime whose time has come and gone – smoke breaks. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that smoking costs an employer $3,376 per year, per smoker, as a result of lost productivity and higher absenteeism rates. According to available statistics from Health Canada, it is estimated that 37% of people who work in the service industry smoke. This is considerably higher than the current rate of smoking in the general population in BC which is about 14%.
Employers concerned about the health and well being of their employees are recognizing that helping their employees quit smoking not only has the potential to reduce costs and improve employee health, it actually boosts employee morale and loyalty.
go2HR’s 2009 Employees First award winner, Grouse Mountain Resorts became the first smoke free mountain resort in BC – a move Grouse feels is a significant part of its ongoing commitment to employee health and well-being. Employees were eligible to participate in Quit & Win contests that provided cash prize incentives for employees pledging to stay smoke free for 6 weeks. Employees interested in quitting received a “Quit Kit” with tools and information on quitting and were reimbursed purchases of over-the-counter smoking cessation products, including Nicotine Replacement Therapy patch and gum. In the first two years of the program, the company successfully helped 15 Grouse Mountain employees quit smoking.
Darcey Horne, former director of Human Resources at the Billy Barker Hotel and Casino in Quesnel, knew there was a higher than average number of smokers on staff at “the Billy” and wanted to do something to help. The first step was convincing employees that the company was serious and committed to helping them. The Billy provided monetary rewards, referred staff to QuitNow, BC’s free telephone and online support and counseling program, and organized a spirited competition between staff to see who could quit the longest. 50% of the employees who participated went 10 weeks without a cigarette with no disruption to customers.
Grouse Mountain and The Billy Barker Hotel and Casino were among over 30 businesses who participated in a pilot program with the Canadian Cancer Society, BC & Yukon Division and BC Healthy Living Alliance. The results of the pilot program suggest that there are simple and inexpensive strategies that workplaces can use to help employees quit smoking that not only improve employee health, but have a significant impact in the fight against cancer.
Helping employees be tobacco-free means better employee health and productivity; improves your corporate image; and provides you with a low cost benefit to demonstrate to employees that you are concerned about their well-being.
What are some simple things that you can start doing to today to help your employees?
1. Refer employees to existing programs & services such as QuitNow.ca
2. Use your company health benefit plans to provide Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) and prescription medications to employees
3. Implement Tobacco Free Workplace Policies
Additional information and resources for employers can be found at Canadian Cancer Society Healthy Workplaces.