Smokers not only take more time off work, but they are less productive

September 04, 2001

Smokers not only take more time off work, but they are also less productive when they are working, shows research in Tobacco Control. In 1990 the US Office of Technology Assessment estimated that smokers cost employers $47 billion dollars in premature death and disability.

The study involved around 300 ticket sales staff a large US airline. One hundred each of current, ex, and non-smokers were included in the group. The researchers assessed their attendance and productivity levels from employer records, and included 10 objective measures, such as how much money they earned for the company and how long they were away from their phone without a sanctioned excuse.

The employees were also asked to rate theirs and others' perception of their productivity and how satisfied they were with life, using the Health and Work Questionnaire, devised by the pharmaceutical industry.

The results showed that current smokers averaged almost three times as much sick leave as non-smokers, as well as significantly more sick leave than ex smokers. Ex-smokers also had lower rates of absenteeism as time passed. Ex smokers were also an average of 5 per cent more productive than current smokers. This was not the case in the first 12 months after giving up, but ex-smokers became significantly more productive over time.

Current smokers felt that their colleagues and supervisors would rate them as the least productive and non-smokers as the most productive. Current smokers were also the least satisfied with their life.

The authors conclude that non- or ex smokers make more productive employees, and that productivity for smokers is likely to increase, and their time off work decrease, once they give up smoking.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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