National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence calls for employer support for smokers who want to quit

Smokers should be given paid time off work to help them kick the habit, new public health guidance has recommended.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) claimed the move would help to cut the estimated £5bn annual cost of lost productivity, absenteeism and fire damage caused by smoking. Smoking also costs the NHS about £1.5bn each year.

It is the first time that Nice has issued guidance that applies beyond the NHS, effectively including every workplace in England.

The new advice comes as workplaces in England prepare to go smoke-free from 1 July.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said: “Our advice is based on the best evidence of which workplace approaches are effective for smokers and make business sense for employers.”

The institute also recommends providing information on local stop-smoking services, and allowing smokers to attend clinics during working hours without loss of pay.

The guidelines were welcomed by charity Action on Smoking and Health.

But David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told The Times: “My concern first of all is about Nice. It shows how divorced from reality it is.

“The idea that business should pick up the tab for an individual’s problem just shows how far it is from economic reality.”

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