Smoking costs UK manufacturers over £208m per year

Posted on 8 Jun 2009 by The Manufacturer

Smokers are costing employers in the manufacturing industry up to £208.2 million annually, according to a study published last week by the NHS.

In the first ever detailed study of the cost of smoking to UK businesses, the London School of Economics (LSE) on behalf of NHS Smokefree estimates the high direct costs of smoking to UK businesses are up to £2.1bn per year.

The total cost of £208.2m to manufacturers is dominated by illness absences for smokers (estimated at 1.77 excess sickness days or £108.6m per year) and by smokers taking cigarette breaks (taken as £99.6 million per year).

The LSE study estimates the total cost of smoking to UK businesses to be £2.1bn per year. LSE has created a new formula that shows employers the genuine cost they bear for smoking employees (see bottom).

The NHS is offering free help to companies help to encourage employees to quit smoking, such as one-to-one or group support sessions in the workplace with trained local NHS stop smoking advisers.

Professor Alistair McGuire, head of social policy at LSE and lead academic for the report, says: “The formula reveals just how much of businesses’ bottom line is going up in smoke every year and how small changes could result in major savings.

“Taking the formula and applying it nationally shows the current total estimate of employer direct costs is £2.1bn per year. This doesn’t even include the indirect costs arising for example from the loss to company image from smoking employees smoking outside the premises, or to the dissatisfaction felt by non-smoking workers who perceive smoking colleagues to be shirking as they take smoke-breaks.”

Civil aircraft maker Airbus has been working with its local NHS Stop Smoking Service to provide its employees with stop smoking support.

“Our occupational health team worked alongside local NHS Stop Smoking Services to learn how to run successful quit sessions,” says Lucy Tully, an occupational health nurse at Airbus. “They understood the complexities of our business and were able to help us develop a customised programme to suit the varied needs of our employees.”

“With so many of our employees working in complex shift patterns, we had to adapt our stop smoking programmes to suit. Therefore we now run classes at night so all of our workers can access support. We try to make quitting as easy as it can be for our employees.”

Trained local NHS stop smoking advisers can offer free group or one-to-one stop smoking sessions on site, or at convenient sites in the local community. Advisers can also attend company staff health events, or run introductory sessions to assess staff interest if that better suits work patterns, and can train a company’s HR or occupational health team to deliver stop smoking advice.

• *LSE has created a new formula that shows employers the genuine cost they bear for smoking employees:
CSE = A + B + F
(Where CSE = cost of smoking borne by employers; A = cost of productivity losses due to smoking related illness absences; B = cost of productivity losses due to smoking breaks; and F = cost of commercial fire damage attributable to smoking.)

• The direct costs caused by smoking related absences and smoking breaks borne by different sectors are as follows:
o Elementary administration and service occupations – £115.4m
o Sales occupations and customer service operations – £98.8m
o Elementary trades, plant and storage – £103.2m
o Process, plant and machine operatives – £105m
o Transport and mobile machine drivers/operatives – £67.7m
o Skilled, construction and building trade – £53.8m

• The direct costs caused by smoking related absences and smoking breaks borne by employers in different regions are as follows:
1. London – £326.7m
2. South East – £274.2m
3. North West – £225.5m
4. West Midlands – £173.3m
5. East – £166.4m
6. South West – £161.4m
7. Yorkshire – £160.1m
8. East Midlands – £121.6m
9. North East – £70.3m