By Valerie S. Nosek, Ease@Work Coordinator
Did you know that tobacco use still leads the pack in being the number one preventable cause of death? Yes it’s true – despite all that we’ve learned about the ill effects of tobacco use, people continue to smoke and use other tobacco products.
According to the American Lung Association’s (ALA) Freedom From Smoking ® program, about one out of every five deaths is tied to tobacco; and for every person who dies of a smoking attributable disease, there are 20 more people suffering from a serious illness related to smoking.
As a human resource professional, benefits manager, company owner or CEO, how can you help but wonder what smoking and tobacco use is costing your organization in terms of insurance premiums, absenteeism/sick days, loss of productivity and ultimately the possible death of an employee?
I recently had the privilege of attending and completing an ALA workshop conducted by Gloria Ayres, ALA Program Director, to become certified as a Freedom From Smoking ® facilitator. Our group included individuals from wellness organizations, hospitals, the insurance and employee assistance program (EAP) industries – all of us looking to help customers, co-workers and others in the community who want to quit smoking.
In preparing for the class, I thought about my motivations for wanting to become certified to teach smoking cessation classes. Of course, I want to help our EAP customers when they request smoking cessation classes for their employees and the ALA’s Freedom From Smoking® is a premiere program. But I also realized I had other motivations.
As a former smoker, I understand what your smoking employees may be struggling with…how hard it is to quit smoking and break that habit (or dependence) on tobacco. I smoked for over 20 years (if you count when I started sneaking smokes as a teen); I have now been smoke-free for 12 years. When I was smoking, I never really believed I could be successful at quitting…but I figure if I could stop smoking and stay smoke-free for this long, so can other people.
I know how it feels to wake up with smoker’s cough…and I know how good it feels when you realize, “Gee, I’m not coughing anymore!” I know how dirty my fingers would feel when I was digging through an ashtray for a longer butt to smoke when I was out of cigarettes and desperate for one; I don’t miss that. I also don’t miss spending my hard-earned money on packs of cigarettes – at over $5 a pack now, that would have been almost a $20-a-day habit for me. Who can afford that?
But more than that – who can afford what tobacco use does to the body?
- More than 4,800 chemical compounds have been identified in tobacco smoke; at least 69 of these are known to cause cancer
- Non-tobacco materials found in cigarettes include insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, rodenticides and pesticides…not so funny that the suffix “cide” means “to kill.”
- Every puff of a cigarette increases heart and breathing rates, constricts blood vessels and decreases the amount of oxygen blood can carry through the body.
- Lung cancer is not the only cancer tobacco users need to fear…how about laryngeal cancer, oral cancer, esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer and renal cancer?
- Let’s not forget other health issues associated with smoking – chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other cardiovascular diseases.
When I quit smoking, I didn’t have access to a program such as Freedom From Smoking ®; I also didn’t know about EAP’s or that an EAP could help with smoking cessation by providing counseling and behavioral change support. Had I been armed with these tools, I may have been successful in quitting earlier – or at least felt more prepared to quit – not as overwhelmed.
- If your worksite is going (or has gone smoke-free) and you know a number of employees are still smoking;
- If your organization has wellness initiatives;
- If your benefits program distinguishes between smokers and non-smokers (either with penalties for smoking/rewards for not smoking)…
…consider offering the Freedom From Smoking ® program to your employees.
Your employees will progress through the sessions, gaining the confidence and skills needed to quit tobacco. They will make real progress in setting a quit date and having the support to see them through those difficult initial days and weeks. They will learn the coping techniques needed to stay smoke-free.
Talk with your EAP representative about smoking cessation programs and how your EAP can support employees who are trying to quit smoking. Along with addictions or behavioral change counseling, a comprehensive EAP, such as EASE@Work, offers nutritional and fitness coaching – which can also help employees maintain a healthy weight while quitting.
If you’d like more information about bringing Freedom From Smoking ® to your site, call me at 216.325.9323 or Contact Ease@Work for more information.