One of the biggest — if not the biggest — cost driver for employer health plans today: smokers. And the theory is, getting them to quit now will drastically lower employer healthcare expenses in the coming years.
But that’s easier said than done. Even if you convince smokers that they should quit, many don’t think they can.
That’s where your smoking cessation plan comes in. To give employees the best chance of quitting, you need to let them know what they’re up against, the risks involved in continuing their habit and what’s worked to put even the heaviest smokers in the non-smoking section — for good.
Some stats to scare them straight:
- Half of all smokers will die from smoking-related illnesses, according to the American Cancer Society, and
- Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control, male smokers who don’t quit lose an average of 13.2 years of life due to smoking. Females lose 14.5 years.
Why is quitting so hard? Nicotine is as addictive as heroin or cocaine. People become physically and emotionally dependent on it.
Now for the most important part — how employees can kick the habit. Below is a five-step plan that you can pass along to employees that can help even the heaviest smokers put down their cigarettes forever.
- Set a quit date. Make it three weeks (21 days) from today. Then decrease the number of cigs smoked per day until the quit date. It helps to start by cutting back one cigarette every three days. It also helps if smokers buy brands they hate.
- Stock up on oral substitutes — gum, carrot sticks, nuts, candy, etc. Use them when the craving to smoke hits.
- Delay when you feel the urge. When the urge to smoke hits, delay for at least 10 minutes. This will often allow a person to move beyond the craving.
- Don’t skip meals. People often worry they’ll gain weight when they quit smoking. Reason: Cigarettes are an appetite-suppressant. The key to maintaining a constant weight? Spread the intake of calories out more evenly throughout the day. In other words, eat less food more often.
- Drink plenty of acidic juice. Drinking fruit juice that’s high in acidity (like cranberry juice) in the first 72 hours after quitting helps remove nicotine from the blood and stabilize blood sugars.
One more piece of advice: Have employees think back to previous attempts to quit and ask what worked well. Then encourage employees to put those things back into action.