Company smoking bans could help employees butt out

Added support measures can significantly increase smokers' likelihood of quitting

TORONTO, June 18, 2013 /CNW/ - Smoking bans on all company property both indoors and outdoors should be a visible part of a comprehensive non-smoking policy in Canadian workplaces, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. Additional measures, such as smoking cessation programs, would also help employees to quit smoking.

Currently, 19 per cent of Canadian organizations responding to a Conference Board of Canada survey ban smoking from their property altogether.

"Implementing workplace smoking bans and enforcing these restrictions will help to reduce the likelihood of smoking and shift the organizational culture," said Karla Thorpe, Director, Leadership and Human Resources Research, who is presenting the findings at the Conference Board's Workplace Wellness and Mental Health 2013 event today.

"Employers can also do more than setting restrictions - they can play a key role in helping smokers to quit. Three-quarters of current smokers are employed and many want to quit. The most effective methods to help smokers quit are to couple access to medication with counseling and support.  This can increase success rates by two to three-fold."


  • Only half of organizations surveyed conducted health risk assessments (HRA) to determine the health needs of their workers - including the number of smokers and whether they are hoping to quit.
  • Complete smoking bans on company property are not widespread, and smoking on job sites (such as construction and landscaping) is still allowed among almost two-thirds of survey respondents.
  • Only 40 per cent of employers cover nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as patches, gum, and/or lozenges.
  • Few organizations track whether their smoking cessation programs are effective.

Smoking bans are a visible sign of an organization's commitment to help prevent employees from smoking, but there are other aspects to a comprehensive smoking cessation program in Canadian workplaces. These aspects include:

Conduct health risk assessments
About half of employers (49 per cent) conduct health risk assessments (HRA) to gauge the risk factors, including smoking, among their employee population. An HRA helps determine the prevalence of smoking among the organization's workforce organizations, and to what extent employees are receptive to quitting.

Enhance coverage under group benefit plans
The majority of organizations (73 per cent) cover prescription smoking cessation medications. But only 40 per cent cover nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) such as patches, gum, and/or lozenges. Many employers also impose yearly or lifetime maximum coverage limits on these programs. Since it often takes more than one attempt to quit smoking, plans should be reviewed to ensure coverage is sufficient to allow employees more than one try per year.

Evaluate the effectiveness of smoking cessation programs
The majority of organizations (79 per cent) do not evaluate their smoking cessation programs. As a result, employers lack knowledge about whether smokers are participating and whether the programs are effective at helping employees quit.

The publication, Smoking Cessation Programs in Canadian Workplaces, is the second of three briefings in the Conference Board's series Smoking Cessation and the Workplace. Funding was provided by the Canadian Alliance for Sustainable Health Care (CASHC) and Pfizer Canada. The survey is the first time that Canadian employers have provided detailed information on workplace programs and policies in place to help their employees quit smoking.
The findings are based on the responses of 129 organizations.

The first publication in the series, Profile of Tobacco Smokers in Canada, examined smoking in Canada with a focus on the employed population in Canada.

Launched in 2011, CASHC is a five-year Conference Board program of research and dialogue. It will delve deeply into facets of Canada's health care challenge, including the financial, workplace, and institutional dimensions, in an effort to develop forward-looking qualitative and quantitative analysis and solutions to make the system more sustainable.

SOURCE: Conference Board of Canada

For further information:

Yvonne Squires, Media Relations, Tel.: 613- 526-3090 ext. 221
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