Friday, October 7, 2011

Cigarette Smoking and the Workplace

A recent report on “Cigarette Smoking and the Workplace Among Working Adults: 2004-2010” by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control  and Prevention (CDC) confirms what Colorado health advocates already know: People who work in certain industries and occupations are more likely to smoke than people in other industries and occupations.

For example, smoking prevalence is lowest in the education services industry (9.7%) and highest in the mining and food services industries (30.0%). Similar results were found when looking at individuals' occupations. By occupation, smoking is lowest among adults with education, training and library jobs (8.7%) and highest among those in construction and extraction jobs (31.4%).

While there are a number of reasons as to why the rates may be as high as they are in certain industries, including education, socio-economic status and social determinants, the data is important because it confirms that available effort and dollars for smoking cessation programs are best directed in the workplace and targeted industries.  Specifically, in today’s environment of shrinking available funding for outreach, education and tobacco cessation programs, those administering cessation programs must be selective in how dollars are spent to achieve the greatest effect.

In Colorado, young adults who do not attend or graduate from college, have smoking rates that are more than twice that of young adults (18-24) who go to college (43.6% vs. 19%). These young adults tend to work in service and craft industries, tend to earn less and have special issues to consider regarding access to health insurance as dependents or securing their own health insurance.

Effective employer interventions are available to reduce smoking, including:
  • 100% smoke-free workplace policies, 
  • Easily accessible help for those who want to quit
  • Health insurance with little or no co-payment for cessation treatments. 
These interventions can improve employee health, decrease absenteeism, and reduce utilization of health care resources.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco cessation coverage is the single most cost effective benefit an employer can provide. Employers that offer cessation benefits see a return on investment in productivity gains within the first year and significant medical cost savings within the second year of offering such benefits. Smoking and smoking-related illnesses costs employers $2,132 per smoker annually in excess medical expenses and another $2,312 per year in lost productivity.

The Colorado QuitLine is a telephone-based coaching program available to Colorado residents 15 years of age and older who are ready to quit smoking. Clients who call the QuitLine will be asked a few basic questions to enroll in the program. Once enrolled, they will be connected with a trained quit coach who will provide tailored support to help them quit smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy (patches or lozenges) is available to smokers 18 years of age and over and medically eligible. A prescription for nicotine replacement therapy is required for smokers who are pregnant and/or have uncontrolled high blood pressure or heart disease. The telephone coaching service - 1 800 QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) is available in English and Spanish.

Colorado also has a cessation portal,, which educates Coloradans about available tobacco quit support and tips to set the stage to quit successfully. The website highlights Colorado QuitLine with a short video describing the free service and what to expect when users call. It provides quit path options for people who are ready to quit and resources for those getting ready to quit. Users can find the resource that that’s right for them.

Resources are also available for employers to provide tobacco cessation services to their employees. The QuitLine Partnership Plan is a unique public-private partnership that provides commercial carriers, employers and third-party administrators with tobacco cessation services at rates typically reserved for public health. The QuitLine Partnership Plan can help employers meet tobacco cessation coverage requirements mandated by the federal Affordable Care Act and Colorado House Bill 1240. Contact Cindy Haugland, National Jewish Health, at 303-728-6506 or, for more information on joining the growing number of health plans and employer groups in the Colorado QuitLine Partnership Plan.

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