British workers who smoke are 20 percent more likely to experience increased ‘periods of excessive stress’ than those who do not smoke as 1.6 million smokers are relying on the habit to relieve feelings of anxiety. 

A survey of over 1,000 workers across the UK found that more than three-quarters of UK employees (79%) said they’ve experienced at least some decline in physical or mental health due to their work – as one in 10 employees report an unhealthy culture of colleague drinking, smoking or substance abuse.

Workers are calling for greater support from their employees to support their physical and mental health with a quarter (25%) stating more training opportunities to build skills in stress management would discourage smokers from reaching out for cigarettes.

This comes after 25 percent of current smokers rely on cigarettes for general stress relief.

Tracey Hudson, Executive Director, at the HR Dept in South Warwickshire, says:

“Employers should feel confident to talk to their employees about how they can support with any personal ambitions – quitting smoking being one. When this is the case, employers can support by encouraging the employee to set a quit date. When the quit date is set, involve colleagues so that the individual feels accountable. Monitor the money saved, celebrate the number of days without smoking and maybe organise little treats to celebrate milestones for that individual.

“Employers could organise counselling for the employee who is trying to stop smoking – whether or not the employer funds the sessions or just sources the support – it all helps to make the employee feel supported in the process.

“It is harder to support an employee when they are working from home, particularly because you can’t keep an eye on the usual routines. Employers could still support by talking through new routines – instead of that usual 10.30am smoke break, let’s book a meeting in for 10.30 am with a cup of tea and grapes to graze on instead. Let this become the new ‘habit’.

“The key thing for employers to know is the motivation behind the wish to stop smoking. If the employer knows the motivation then it makes the way of supporting and celebrating milestones much easier”.

The findings highlight that employees in the West Midlands are twice as likely to smoke regularly than workers elsewhere, posing unique health risks for people in the region.

Tracey Hudson, Executive Director at the HR Dept in South Warwickshire, added:

“With the statistic that 79 percent of employees in the UK have experienced some decline in health due to work, this is significant and employers should not underestimate wellbeing initiatives in the workplace. This is critical to maintaining a strong, healthy workforce and will encourage employee retention so for any employers who aren’t addressing wellbeing, this is a warning sign”.

For further mental health support, workers can visit the following associations:

  • Mental health charity Mind has been offering support to people for more than 70 years
  • NHS urgent mental health helplines are available 24/7
  • Hub of Hope lists local services based on your location and needs






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.