Despite the widespread recognition of the health hazards associated with tobacco use, employee smoking continues to be a prevalent issue that many employers tend to overlook. The inconspicuous nature of smoking in today’s workplace has caused some employers to underestimate the magnitude and seriousness of this addiction. Consequently, it is often excluded from benefits planning, resulting in missed opportunities to help employees in need.

This article covers the latest research on employee tobacco use for 2023, including must-know statistics, the negative relationship between smoking and workplace productivity, the state of related federal policies, and effective strategies for employers to help their employees in overcoming this battle. 

Learn More About Tobacco Cessation by EX Program Truth Initiative

Pressed for time? Here’s a quick summary…

  • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the US.
  • Smoking has adverse effects on worker productivity and performance and is one of the leading contributors to health care costs for employers.
  • While the federal government has made efforts to reduce tobacco use, policies vary across states and have a direct impact on the health of residents.
  • E-cigarettes with synthetic nicotine remain on the market, and flavored tobacco products are especially popular with young adults.
  • Employers can help employees quit tobacco by cultivating a culture of health, fostering a safe environment, providing educational resources, and offering tobacco cessation programs.

Smoking Statistics Every Employer Should Know 

Check out this comprehensive list of smoking statistics every employer should know: 

  • Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the US, with more than 450,000 deaths annually, or nearly one in five deaths. 
  • Smoking causes 90% of all lung cancer deaths, and more women die from lung cancer each year than breast cancer. 
  • Smoking increases the risk
    • For coronary heart disease by two to four times. 
    • For stroke by two to four times. 
    • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times. 
    • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 times. 

The Real Costs Of Tobacco 

  • Tobacco use costs the US billions of dollars each year, including: 
    • More than $240 billion in health care spending. 
    • Nearly $185 billion in lost productivity due to smoking-related health conditions. 
    • Nearly $180 billion in lost productivity due to smoking-induced premature death. 
  • State spending on tobacco prevention and control does not meet CDC-recommended levels, with zero states funding programs at recommended levels and only three states funding 70% of the recommended amount. 

The Power Of Big Tobacco 

  • Scientific evidence reveals that tobacco company advertising and promotion influence youth to start using tobacco
  • Tobacco marketing campaigns target women. Products are promoted to women as a way to increase social desirability and empowerment, conveyed by advertisements featuring slim, attractive, and athletic models. 
  • Certain brands of tobacco products appear targeted to members of racial/minority communities. Marketing to Hispanics and American Indians/Alaska Natives has included advertising cigarette brands with names like Rio, Dorado, and American Spirit. 

Tobacco Use In Racial And Ethnic Populations 

  • Nearly 14% of all adults (34.2 million people), 15.6% of men and 12% of women, smoke cigarettes.  
  • The percentage of adults who smoke cigarettes is: 
    • About 19% of people with mixed-race heritage (non-Hispanic) 
    • Nearly 23% of non-Hispanic American Indians/Alaska Natives 
    • Nearly 15% of non-Hispanic Blacks 
    • About 15% of non-Hispanic Whites 
    • Nearly 10% of Hispanics 
    • About 7% of non-Hispanic Asians 

Smoking Cessation Statistics 

  • Over half of adult smokers report attempting to quit in the past year. 
  • While most adult smokers want to quit, fewer than one in ten are successful each year. 
  • Four out of every nine smokers who visited a health professional in the past year did not receive advice to quit. 

Check out this inspiring EX Program success video to get a better idea of how Wellable’s tobacco cessation program works:

Nashville Bar Owner Says Goodbye to Tobacco with EX Program

Smoking At Work Statistics 

Electronic Vaping Product/E-Cigarette Specific Smoking Statistics 

  • More than 30% of teenagers who start using e-cigarettes begin using traditional tobacco products within six months, compared to 8% of teenagers who do not use e-cigarettes. 
  • More than 70% of high school cigarette smokers also use vaping products. 
  • Young people in the US are four times more likely to try cigarettes if they’ve tried vaping products.
  • Screening rates for e-cigarette use are much lower (34.8%) than screening for other substances in primary care, such as tobacco (99.5%), alcohol (96.2%), and illicit drug use (92.6%).
  • The lack of e-cigarette screening rates may be attributed to the recent surge in e-cigarette use, insufficient training on this type of screening, or the recent addition of e-cigarette use to the electronic health records (EHR). However, over 60% of e-cigarette users want to discuss their use with their primary care provider.

Tobacco-Specific Smoking Statistics 

  • Over $8 billion is spent on advertising and promoting cigarettes and smokeless tobacco each year. 
  • The life expectancy for cigarette smokers is at least ten years shorter than non-smokers. 
  • Quitting smoking before age 40 reduces the risk of dying from smoking-related diseases by 90%

Second-Hand Smoke Statistics 

Second Hand Smoke Kills

Detrimental Effects Of Smoking And Workplace Success 

Tobacco in the workplace is primarily associated with health concerns, but it also has adverse effects on business success. Employee smoking reduces worker productivity and performance and leads to higher costs for employers. Here are the negative impacts of smoking in the workplace:  


Smokers are more likely to take time off from work due to illness than non-smokers, resulting in higher rates of absenteeism. Studies have shown that smokers average a 31% higher sick-leave rate than non-smokers. This significantly impacts businesses, resulting in lost productivity and increased costs to cover for absent employees. 

Diminished Productivity And Performance

Smoking breaks can average from eight to 73 minutes a day for high tobacco use industries like construction. These breaks reduce work output and can negatively impact cognitive abilities, such as decision-making and problem-solving. 

Second-hand Smoke

In workplaces that allow smoking, 20% of non-smokers report second-hand smoke exposure at least once a week. This can lead to adverse health effects for all in-office employees and spike insurance-related costs if impacted employees file workers’ compensation claims. 

Increased Risk Of Accidents

Smoking-related distractions can lead to lower performance and a higher likelihood of errors. This is particularly concerning in high-risk jobs like construction, where workplace accidents can have severe safety consequences. 

Property Insurance

Smoking can have a surprising impact on property insurance costs for workplaces that allow smoking. Businesses that reported smoke-free policies experienced a reduction in fire insurance costs by 25-30%, as cigarette smoking can cause fires which may result in property damage and loss of business assets. 

State of Federal Smoking Control

The American Lung Association’s 21st annual State of Tobacco Control report highlights notable efforts taken by the federal government to prevent and reduce tobacco use. These include the proposed elimination of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars by the US. Food and Drug Administration in April 2022 and the extension of FDA authority over e-cigarettes and other products containing synthetic nicotine by Congress. However, enforcement timelines were missed, allowing some e-cigarettes with synthetic nicotine to remain on the market. The Biden Administration plans to issue final rules in 2023 to address this issue. 

Tobacco policies vary across states, with some still allowing smoking in workplaces such as restaurants and bars, while others have implemented comprehensive smoke-free laws for years. The report identifies California, Maine, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia as states with the most effective tobacco control policies. At the same time, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas need significant policy changes to reduce tobacco use. The policies examined have a direct impact on the health of state residents. While there have been overall declines in adult tobacco use, flavored cigars, and e-cigarettes have become increasingly popular among youth and young adults. Furthermore, disparities in tobacco use persist among specific races and ethnicities due to socioeconomic factors. 

Detrimental Effects Of Tobacco And Workplace Success

How Employers Can Help Employees Quit Smoking

Beyond federal smoking control, employers can help workers quit smoking in many ways, resulting in a healthier workforce and improved business outcomes.  

Here are ways employers can encourage smoking cessation and support employees in their quest to quit.

Build A Culture of Health

Although most employees know that quitting smoking has positive health outcomes, immersing them in a culture of health provides a firsthand experience of the multitude of benefits that come with leading a healthy lifestyle. A culture of health encourages healthy behaviors by aligning company policies, practices, and norms to support employee well-being. This can increase productivity, boost energy levels and morale, and empower individuals to take control of their health outcomes. 

Healthy habits can be normalized by encouraging stretch breaks, stocking the office with healthy snacks, and implementing policies that promote work-life balance, such as flexible work arrangements. Leadership can reinforce a culture of health by participating in health initiatives and recognizing team members who do the same. When employees experience the positive impact of healthy behaviors on their lives, they become motivated to make changes in other areas, including smoking cessation. 

Provide Educational Resources

Smoking is not just a physical addiction but a psychological one. Employees who want to quit smoking must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to overcome the physical and mental challenges of smoking cessation. Employers should provide educational resources such as workshops, seminars, webinars, or online courses to raise awareness about the health risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting. They can also include tips for managing cravings, coping mechanisms for stress, and strategies for creating a smoke-free environment, motivating employees to become smoke-free, and empowering them to develop actionable strategies on their quest.  

Ensure A Safe Environment For Employees To Ask For Help

Employees may feel embarrassed or ashamed about their smoking addiction, making them hesitant to seek help. Employers can combat this by fostering an open and supportive environment where employees can discuss their smoking habits without fear of judgment or retribution. This can involve initiating open discussions about smoking cessation efforts, providing confidential resources that employees can access privately, and offering support groups. By ensuring a safe environment for employees to ask for help, employers encourage them to take the first step in their smoking cessation journey. 

Offering Tobacco Cessation Programs

Organizations that invest in tobacco cessation programs demonstrate their commitment to the health of their workforce and show support for employees in achieving their smoking cessation goals. A tobacco cessation program can include a customized quit plan and personal coaching to accommodate individual triggers and smoking patterns. Quitting “cold turkey” is unreliable for yielding lasting results, so nicotine replacement therapy is often used and can double the chances of quitting successfully. Offering a tobacco cessation program can increase the likelihood that employee smokers will take action to quit smoking, resulting in a healthier workforce. 

This article was last updated on January 2, 2024

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