Smokers miss work more often, cost UK billions: study

Wed Oct 31, 2012 9:47am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

(Reuters) - Smokers miss an average of two or three more days of work each year than non-smokers, with this absenteeism costing the UK alone 1.4 billion pounds - or $2.25 billion - last year, according to a UK study.

The report, which appeared in the journal Addiction, analyzed 29 separate studies conducted between 1960 and 2011 in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, the United States and Japan, with a total of over 71,000 public and private sector workers.

Researchers asked the workers about their current and former smoking habits and used surveys or medical and employee records to track how often they were absent over an average of two years.

Current smokers were 33 percent more likely to miss work than non-smokers, and they were absent an average of 2.7 extra days per year, according to Jo Leonardi-Bee of the University of Nottingham, UK, and her colleagues.

The researchers calculated that current smokers were still 19 percent more likely to miss work than ex-smokers, so encouraging smokers to quit could help reverse some of the lost-work trends.

"Quitting smoking appears to reduce absenteeism and result in substantial cost-savings for employers," wrote Leonardi-Bee and her colleagues.

The 1.4 billion pounds lost in the UK due to smoking-related absenteeism is only one cost of smoking in the workplace, according to Leonardi-Bee and her colleagues. Others include productivity lost to smoking breaks and the cost of cigarette, related fire damage.

In the analysis, smoking was tied to workers' short-term absences as well as leaves of four weeks or more.

"Clearly the most important message for any individual's health is, 'Quit smoking,' but I think that message is pretty well out there," said Douglas Levy, a tobacco and public health researcher from the Harvard Medical School in Boston who wasn't a part of the study.   Continued...

Cigarette butts in an ashtray in Los Angeles, California, May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn