smokingA new study, published in the journal, Tobacco Control, has claimed that smokers cost approximately £4,000 a year more to employ than non-smokers.

Researchers in America say their calculations show that that time off work costs employers the equivalent of £344 a year per smoker, lower productivity costs £307 and smoking breaks cost £2,045.

Commenting on the study, researchers from the College of Public Health and Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University, said:

“Employees who smoke impose significant excess costs on private employers. The results of this study may help inform employer decisions about tobacco-related policies.”

It has been revealed that some US companies have even started to charge smokers higher premiums for employee health insurance, while others claim they will dismiss employees who do not quit smoking within a specific time period.

US researchers continued:

“It is important to remember that the costs imposed by tobacco use are not simply financial costs.

“It is not possible to put a price on the lost lives and the human suffering caused by smoking. The desire to help one’s employees lead healthier and longer lives should provide an additional impetus for employers to work towards eliminating tobacco from the workplace.”

According to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), it is not unlawful for UK employers to advertise jobs as only available to non-smokers, and employers can deduct time spent smoking at work and not engaged with duties from an employee’s salary.

In response to the new report, Simon Clark, Director of the consumer group, Forest, which lobbies for the rights of smokers, said that smoking should not be a factor when it comes to employing people.

He said:

“This study trots out the usual estimates and calculations. Yes, smoking is a risk to people’s health but so is obesity, drinking to excess and lack of exercise.

“Many smokers believe the occasional smoking break improves rather than reduces their productivity. This is just another attempt to stigmatise smokers and encourage employers to discriminate against them.”

He added:

“Non-smokers take coffee breaks, make personal phone calls and use social media at work. Should those activities be targeted too?

“Smoking should not be a factor when it comes to employing people. People should be judged on their ability to do the job, not on whether they smoke.”