According to one of the world’s largest accountancy firms, PricewatehouseCoopers, Americans call in sick to work an average of 6 days per-year; Europeans almost double that. If you are a smoker chances are you climb above the average.
We all get ill from time to time, but researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK say if you are a smoker chances are you are missing work more than your non-smoking colleagues. The researchers took 29 studies that focused on the smoking and work habits of people living in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the United States. They carefully analyzed the data which included information on 71,000 people from the private and public sector. What they discovered was that smokers missed work an average 2.7 extra days per year than people who were smoke free. They concluded that smokers were 33 per cent more likely to miss work than non-smokers. The study demonstrated that smoking was associated with workers’ short-term absences and leaves of four weeks or more.
Why Smokers Get Sick
According to the Centers for Disease Control there are more health problems caused by tobacco than by deaths from illegal drugs, alcohol use, and motor vehicle accidents combined. Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals; some of which have been labeled as cancer causing. It is no secret that smoking has been linked to lung cancer.
Lung cancer is only part of the problem; smoking causes fatty substances to accumulate in the arteries which can contribute to heart disease. As well, studies show that smokers tend to suffer more from the common cold than those who do not smoke and those who live in smoke free environments. When smokers do get a cold it can take a lot longer to get rid of a cough than if they were a non-smoker. Often times smokers end up suffering from bronchitis too. Several medical journals point out that smoking leads to an increased risk of respiratory infections.
Our lungs are lined with little hairs called “cilia”. These hairs move back and forth to sweep unwanted dust and other particles out of our lungs, yet if we smoke the “cilia” can’t move so the particles build up, weakening our lungs and making them more susceptible to illness, not to mention the forming of tar.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 92 billion dollars is lost each year in the United States due to lost productivity as a result of smoking related deaths. The CDC promotes workplace smoking cessation programs to encourage tobacco users to quit and to reduce employees’ exposure to second-hand smoke. The CDC also believes that smoking cessation programs will spill over into people’s personal lives and may influence smoking behavior in worker’s family members.
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The researchers involved in the UK analysis say last year absenteeism due to smoking related illness cost the country 1.4 billion pounds or 2.25 billion dollars. They believe the study supports the idea of companies paying for smoking cessation programs for employees.
Smoking free in America
As of March 2012 there were 27 states with smoking bans in general workplaces, including restaurants and bars. There are other states that have smoking bans in specific areas outside the workplace; however there are at least 10 states that have no smoking bans at all.
Health care professionals are quick to point out that it is not just productivity that smoking has an impact on, it creates a burden on healthcare budgets, the healthcare system as a whole, and it takes too many lives; in many cases all too soon.
If you’re a smoker and want to avoid the pitfalls associated with the habit, you can check with your local health department to see if there are any smoking cessation programs available in your community. You should also ask your employer about classes that could lead you to a smoke free life.