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If you want to be more productive, have better health and more spending money in your pocket, consider giving up smoking this May, which is Anti-Tobacco Month.
Research estimates that the average smoker spends approximately one hour a day on feeding the habit at work.
From an annual perspective, the one-hour breaks add up to 244 hours of lost productivity a year and 1.2 years over the course of an average working life (44.5 years).
“From a local perspective, 23 percent of South Africa’s adult population, or 7 million individuals, smoke,” says Professor Jacques Snyman, clinical advisor for Resolution Health Medical Scheme.
“Over and above the 244 hours lost per smoker per year, this group of individuals also has a 33.3 percent higher absenteeism rate and a shortened career by 9.1 percent when compared to a non-smoker.”
The habit’s burden on the healthcare system can also not be ignored.
A 2009 study by the US’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that smokers not only cost the country $97 billion a year in lost productivity but they contributed to an additional $96bn a year in direct health-care costs.
“Smoking damages almost every organ in the body and often results in the individual requiring costly health-care treatments in the long term,” Snyman points out.
“The ultimate result is a marked increase in health-care utilisation as smokers typically fall ill more often and claim more than non-smokers.”
Globally, smoking is responsible for approximately 71 percent of lung cancer, 42 percent of chronic respiratory disease and 10 percent of cardiovascular disease.
From a cost perspective, all three diseases fall in the top 10 list of most expensive chronic diseases for medical schemes.
The burden on the private and public health-care system as a whole is significant.
“Combined with the substantial loss in productivity, the habit is having a resoundingly negative effect on South Africa’s economy,” says Snyman.
Encouragingly, 72 percent of South African smokers admit that they want to quit, with 24 percent having attempted without success.
Key to the process, says Snyman, is to provide these individuals with the necessary tools and incentives to follow through – and corporate SA is perfectly poised to drive internal “stop smoking” initiatives.
“Nowadays most medical schemes will cover a portion of the cost or offer a discount on smoking cessation programmes, and information on these courses is easily obtainable from the health-care providers or medical schemes,” Snyman explains.
He believes that employers should take a proactive approach in encouraging smokers to take full advantage of these offers and allow them time off work to attend these programmes.
There is no one-size-fits-all programme. Smokers need to consult their doctors to establish what will work best as some programmes may include scheduled medicines.
Snyman suggests that where there are shortfalls in medical scheme coverage, employers assist employees to find smoke cessation programmes that are offered free of charge.