Year after year after year some of the same questions get brought up. Like the sun rising, inevitably, I will get questions every year from organizational leaders about "how can we stop people from smoking?" or even "How can we get less employees that smoke?" which is one I've always thought sounded like a Godfather question - You smokin' to ME?!?!
So, most years organizations look towards outside help in order to help their employees "cut the butt" or some similar cute tagline that ropes in most people. Here's what you can expect: Little to no participation each year and if they do participate (often because there is some sort of incentive tied to it) they are still smoking the next year. Does that mean that we should give up on trying to get people to quit this harmful habit? Not at all! Instead, I want to give everyone some insight on proper expectations so you know what you're getting into.
First, you need to ask yourself WHY you are doing this. If the sole reason is to reduce insurance claims, get within a certain metric for your population, or to get some sort of back-end reward for having a "healthy population" - you're going to be frustrated more times than not. People have a way of seeing through organizations that are interested in numbers rather than their wellbeing. However, if you go into this project knowing it's a long term strategy with a goal of creating a supportive environment when someone makes the choice to quit - DING DING DING! You're going to have success.
Now that you've got your head on straight let me tell you why the long term strategy is...well, long term. Less than 5% of all smokers actually quit smoking, it often takes anywhere between 7-10 times of attempting to quit that it actually sticks, and finally couple that with the wild metrics showing if their social network either smokes or doesn't has a significant role in if quitting stays around long term...you now know the odds you're going up against.
I know I'm not building up a big case to stick with a cessation course. However, I want to express that employees that have a supportive organization that provides tobacco cessation support are the ones bringing those metrics up! Once it is the employees decision to make the change and commit, along with having a supportive group of individuals around them - why wouldn't you provide some financial help to get them towards their goal? After all, tobacco has been linked to at least 8.7% of all medical expenses so take what your organization spends in that area, figure out 8.7% of that and boom - now you see why providing this type of support for even a decade would still net you a positive return if even ONE person decided to quit. Just for this reason alone, I always recommend having some form of NRTs (nicotine replacement Therapy) such as gum, patches, etc. along with some form of program they can attend and finally having your HR team dedicate time to following up with the individual and providing motivation/encouragement to them.
Again, while finances shouldn't be the only determinant of helping your employees thrive in their everyday lives, I do understand that organizations have limited resources and need to know where to allocate them. So, next time you're looking to do a smoking cessation course think about how much money you're wanting to spend and look towards potentially bringing in a holistic wellbeing plan so that you can begin creating that supportive environment and have the right tools at the right time for the employee. After all, it's the best thing for both them and the organization!