Tobacco-related absenteeism and presenteeism costs Australian workplaces $4.98 billion per year due to smokers (including ex-smokers) taking an extra 11.3 million days off work. Workers who smoke daily have an extra 3.7 days off work per year than workers who have never smoked.
Workplace tobacco-related costs include:
Current smokers (i.e., daily and occasional smokers) are at increased risk of workplace absenteeism compared to non-smokers.
Tobacco-related workplace costs are not evenly distributed across Australian workplaces. The prevalence of daily smoking is significantly higher among workers in utilities, transport and warehousing, construction, administration, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing industries (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Prevalence of daily smoking in industries with significantly higher prevalence of daily smoking compared to the total workforce (2016 NDSHS data)
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2017. National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016, Drug Statistics Series. Canberra, Government of Australia, NCETA secondary analyses.
Addiction to smoking causes cravings and these cravings can result in workers becoming distracted and losing concentration. This can be particularly dangerous when workers are operating power tools and heavy machinery increasing the risk of injury.
Smokers may also need to take regular smoking breaks to satisfy their cravings. It has been estimated that smokers take up to 4 smoke breaks a day each lasting about 10 minutes. This places additional pressure on other workers to maintain productivity levels.
Smoking is a fire hazard and there is a greater risk of fires especially if cigarettes are not extinguished properly in areas where flammables are stored / used.
Second-hand smoke from workers on smoke breaks can affect the health of both smokers and non-smokers. You can reduce this risk by placing restrictions on smoking near building entrances.
Check out SA Health’s Smoke-free workplaces: A guide for workplaces in South Australia for more information.
The workplace and working environment can contribute to uptake or continued use of tobacco.
Look at your workplace environment and culture to see if it is likely to contribute to increased smoking rates among workers. For example:
Is your workplace smoke-free? The benefits of a smoke-free workplace include:
If your workplace wants to become smoke-free the following websites provide advice and strategies on implementing smoke-free practices and environments.
SA Health’s Smoke-free workplaces guide
1 in 3 adult smokers in Australia have a mental health problem and may find it more difficult to quit than other people.
Many people believe smoking reduces stress and feel less stressed after a cigarette. However, smoking can actually cause stress.
Smoking is associated with mental health problems e.g., anxiety, depression and alcohol and drug dependence.
People who quit smoking become less stressed, anxious and depressed. Quitting smoking for at least six weeks improves:
For more information see NCETA’s WorkLife Fact Sheet: Mental Health and Alcohol and Drug Use, Toolbox Talk: Alcohol and Drug Use and Mental Health and Online Learning Topic: Mental Health, Stress and Fatigue.
Evidence suggests that tobacco use is strongly related to alcohol and other drug use:
Nicotine (the main product in tobacco) can impact the effectiveness of certain medications such as antipsychotics and some antidepressants. For example:
The use of e-cigarettes / vaping is increasing, and workers may opt to use e-cigarettes rather than smoke tobacco. There is no evidence that vaping can help a worker to quit smoking and in fact vaping can cause long-term damage to teeth, mouth and gums. The nature of the hazard it causes depends on the type of liquid used in an e-cigarette and the health status of the worker.
It’s important to remember that it is illegal to use e-cigarettes in places where smoking is illegal e.g., in all enclosed workplaces and shared work areas such as offices, shops, factories and work vehicles.
If you are a smoker or you work with people who smoke, quitting can seem really tough but with help and support it is achievable. Quitting at any age will have positive health benefits including:
In addition, quitting saves money.
World Health Organisation
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