Hiring smokers costs firms $6,000 a head, study says


An employee who smokes costs his or her employer nearly $6,000 more per year than a nonsmoker, according to a study the U.S. published Monday in the journal Tobacco Control.

Absences for ill health, lower productivity because of smoking breaks and additional health care costs make up the bulk of the additional charge, it said. “Our best estimate of the annual excess cost to employ a smoker is $5,816,” says the study, which was led by Micah Berman at the College of Public Health and Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.

The figure takes into account that pension costs are nearly $296 lower for an employee who smokes, because smokers tend to die at a younger age than nonsmokers.

Numerous employers in the U.S. have begun charging smokers higher premiums for health insurance or declaring they will only hire nonsmokers, the paper said.

The investigation is based on previous research into various aspects of smoker versus nonsmoker employment. For instance, it calculates annual absenteeism among smokers to be 2.6 days more per person than nonsmokers. If an employee works 7½ hours a day and the average hourly cost of wages and benefits is $26.49, this works out to an additional charge per year to the employer of $516.56.

Nonsanctioned smoking breaks are estimated to cost $3,077 per year in lost productivity, on the basis of two 15-minute breaks per day, on the 232 working days per year.

As for medical costs, smoking-related problems account for around 8 percent of all health care expenses, the researchers said. For employers who provide health insurance to their staff, this drives up the bill accordingly. Insuring a smoker costs $2,055.77 more than a nonsmoker.