Smoking: how to help your workers quit

If you or any of your team are one of the UK’s 12 million adults who smoke, did you know that about 114,000 smokers are likely to die every year, and that 30% of all cancer deaths are caused by smoking? It’s No Smoking Day tomorrow (14 March), and the July deadline for the smoking ban in all public places in England is looming ever closer, so there’s never been a better time to quit.

‘Make a fresh start’ is this year’s national No Smoking Day campaign to try and urge smokers to kick the habit. A recent survey carried out by the No Smoking Day charity reveals that 2.8 million smokers want to try and quit when the ban is introduced.

But it’s not just smoking workers who are at risk of disease – every year, several hundred people in the UK die from lung cancer as a result of breathing in second-hand smoke.

More and more employers are getting involved in helping workers kick the habit. The July legislation will force most workplaces to become smoke-free, so HR professionals are tightening up and communicating policies on smoking breaks for staff.

Confectionery company Nestlé is supporting No Smoking Day with a publicity campaign at all its sites.

Dr David Batman, Nestlé UK’s head of occupational health and safety, says: “We recognise the scientific evidence linking smoking and passive smoking with ill health, and seek to guarantee all employees, contractors and visitors the right to work in a smoke-free environment.”

Nestlé will no longer permit smoking anywhere on its UK or Ireland-owned or managed sites.

The occupational health team at Nestlé will provide an intranet service explaining its new no smoking policy and will provide links to external websites where staff can seek help. It is also working with HR staff and local NHS services at its sites around the country to provide the best possible support for employees wanting to give up ahead of the ban.

Batman says: “Restrictions on smoking in workplaces are necessary to protect non-smokers. Avoiding preventable illnesses has obvious benefits for all employees and their families.”

Ben Youdan, chief executive of No Smoking Day, offers this advice to HR: “Employers should ensure that their smoking policies are revised and updated to comply with legislation. It is up to the individual employer whether or not to allow smoking in outdoor areas, or to provide shelters for smokers.”

After all, a bunch of huddling smokers and a scattering of cigarette butts outside your headquarters is hardly a great advertisement for you as an employer.

Action plans

  • Set up a ‘stop smoking’ company challenge, such as a sponsored quit.

  • Contact your local NHS service to see if it runs workplace smoking cessation groups.

  • Train a member of staff to be a smoking cessation adviser.

  • Set up a quitters group at work, or subsidise nicotine replacement therapy.

  • Place smoking helpline numbers on payslips.

For more information on No Smoking Day, call 0800 169 0169

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