Human Resources News & Insights

Smoking bans and employee weight gain linked, study says

Programs that encourage workers to quit smoking are great. But there’s one problem employers need to keep in mind.

Those who quit smoking are more at risk of becoming obese than smokers, says a study published in the journal Economics Letters.

The study, led by Feng Liua of Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, analyzed the responses of 227,000 people in an attempt to determine how smoking bans affected U.S. workers from 1998 to 2006.

The data showed current smokers had an average body mass index (BMI) that was 1.8 lower than non-smokers.

A person with a BMI above 30 is considered obese — and at far greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Smokers’ probability of obesity was also found to be 9.4% lower than non-smokers’.

Smokers were also found to have a much lower average BMI (by 3.6 points) than former smokers — and were found to be 18.5% less likely to be obese than those who’d kicked the habit.

Cessation isn’t always enough

Of course, the report isn’t suggesting that smoking is the healthier option, but rather that smoking bans alone may not necessarily lead to a much healthier workforce.

One reason those who quit smoking gain weight: Cigarettes are a great appetite-suppressant.

So how can you help employees maintain their weight after quitting? Suggest that they spread their calorie intake out more evenly throughout the day. That means eating less food more often.

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  1. Not surprising. Often when someone is quitting one thing they shift their withdrawals to another.

  2. The smoking bans are a limited view of what healthy really is. Creating bans might not be the most enlightened solution for a healthier workforce but it is a start. More should be done. What might be in store for us in the future?

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