For Hometown News
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Tobacco users aren't the only ones paying the cost of their addiction with their health and wallet. St. Lucie County employers are paying the price as well. Employees who smoke can cost businesses more than $6,000 per year when compared to non-smokers.
In time for the Great American Smoke Out, which took place on Nov. 21, the Florida Department of Health's Tobacco Free Florida program and Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County encouraged businesses to actively help their employees quit tobacco.
"We are proud to announce that several major entities in our county have taken the pledge, to make their workplace Tobacco Free: St. Lucie County School District, HCA Hospitals, the New York Mets Stadium at Tradition Field (inside the stadium) so we applaud our Division of Community Health Promotion for their tireless efforts to continue to educate and promote a healthy work site for their employees," said Larry Lee, County Health Officer.
Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County offers employer's free assistance in developing tobacco cessation programs, whether it's through the company's health insurance provider or the state's free cessation services.
Nearly 70 percent of smokers want to quit, and getting help through their employers can increase their chance of success while simultaneously benefiting the business.
Health care costs are one of the largest expenses facing St. Lucie businesses. On average, health care costs for employees who smoke are up to 34 percent higher compared to non-smokers. Every employee who smokes can cost employers an extra $2,056 a year in health care expenses.
Tobacco use is also the leading cause of productivity loss at work. In fact, each smoker can cost a business an average of $4,056 every year in lost productivity including sick days, distraction at work, and smoking breaks. Workers who smoke at least one pack a day experience 75 percent more productivity loss than non-smoking workers.
"Businesses who want to help their employees quit tobacco should also implement a tobacco free grounds policy at their workplace," said Tobacco Free Florida Bureau Chief Shannon Hughes. "These policies are one of the most effective ways to help employees quit and it creates a healthier environment for all."
Tobacco free grounds policies nearly double the chance that employees will quit. For those that do not quit, the policy will reduce the number of cigarettes smoked by employees during the week.
Tobacco free grounds policies are easy to enforce. More than 80 percent of Floridians do not smoke, and research has shown compliance rates for tobacco free grounds policies to be more than 96 percent.
The Department's Tobacco Free Florida campaign is a statewide cessation and prevention campaign funded by Florida's tobacco settlement fund.
Tobacco users interested in quitting are encouraged to use one of the state's three ways to quit. To learn about Tobacco Free Florida and the state's free quit resources, visit www.tobaccofreeflorida.com or follow the campaign on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TobaccoFreeFlorida or Twitter at www.twitter.com/tobaccofreefla.