Several surveys and studies show that smokers miss more days of work and experience more unproductive time at work compared with nonsmokers and former smokers. They also show higher medical costs associated with treating smoking-related health problems; lost productivity due to smoking breaks; and earlier retirement due to smoking-related health problems.

For most smokers, cigarettes and smoking are a very important part of life, providing a multiplicity of perceived benefits, including comfort, stress relief, and an enhancement to social interactions especially at work. For this reason, although the health consequences of smoking are well known, most smokers find it hard to quit as they experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, craving for cigarettes or difficulty concentrating upon quitting.

Nicotine content of the cigarette forms the addictive component of tobacco. Over time, a person becomes physically dependent on and emotionally addicted to nicotine. This physical dependence causes unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. The emotional and mental dependence (addiction) make it hard to stay away from nicotine’s effects after quitting, generally resulting in less than optimal concentration levels and work performance at the office, and also at home.

To encourage and facilitate the quitting efforts, employers may consider implementing initiatives that reduce tobacco use by their employees at work. In fact, the workplace can be an ideal setting to make a shift towards a culture of health awareness, individually and collectively, through a supportive environment. There are a variety of ways that employers can help their employees quit smoking, and any workplace that offers cessation activities, thereby shows a tangible commitment to their employees’ health and wellness.

Some of the proven strategies that can make cessation activities in the workplace more successful include:

• Understanding that quitting is a process. Allowing and encouraging employees to participate in activities and to access quit-smoking medications as often as they need to make the various quit attempts often necessary to stay smoke-free for good.
• Removing as many barriers as possible around participating in activities such as cost, location and time, and tailoring the program to the workplace.
• Extending cessation benefits and activities to spouses and family members.
• Taking a long-term approach. This will result in long-term results and long-term benefits.

Smoking is a habit that can be associated with daily personal and social activities over many years. It will require a multi-faceted approach from various sources (e.g. family, friends, quit-smoking consultants) and to set in place specific strategies to help maximize chances of success in quitting.

The following describes an overview of the 3 main steps in the process of quitting smoking.

Step #1: Preparing to Quit

Getting ready to change.

• Identifying personal reasons to quit and mentally reviewing commitment for quitting.
• Paying attention to smoking behavior to develop strategies to cope with triggers to smoke.
• Setting a quit date, ideally within a couple weeks.
• Planning nonsmoking ways to deal with temptations to smoke. Identifying two or three coping strategies (such as taking a short walk, calling a friend to help in the process, breathing exercises, etc).
• Getting support from family and friends.

Step #2: Action Stage

Process of changing a behavior.

• Getting actively involved in changing smoking behavior.
• Asking for support and be open to receiving help.
• Mentally reviewing commitment to self through the process.
• Believing to have the inner strength to quit.
• Acting on the non-smoking ways to deal with temptations when cravings arise. Cravings increase gradually, reaching a ‘peak’ and regressing spontaneously. The urge to smoke typically lasts no more than 5 minutes. As time passes, these cravings diminish in number and intensity until they disappear completely.
• May consider a consultation for medications to help quitting, or nicotine containing gums, lozenges or patches to ease the withdrawal symptoms.

Step #3: Staying Smoke-Free

After quitting and getting through the first couple of weeks, staying off cigarettes is critical and not always easy.

• Anticipating situations in which “slips” could occur and preparing alternative strategies in advance.
• Remaining aware that what you are working towards is personally worthwhile and meaningful.
• Being patient with self and recognizing that it often takes a while to let go of old habits and behavior patterns and adopt new ones.
• Forgiving self; “slipping” is not a failure but a learning experience.

Mark Twain once said:
“Quitting smoking is easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.”

Quitting smoking is a decision that involves overcoming a certain number of obstacles. By providing and publicizing cessation activities, and offering a smoke-free working environment, employers who promote health in the workplace can effectively help employees to quit smoking. People try to quit when they are presented with opportunities and options, and are more likely to succeed when they have support.

Follow-On “Corporate Wellness Culture” Development:

Smoking cessation is one factor that will greatly improve employees’ health. Such workplace activities can help foster broader workplace Corporate Wellness Cultures, supporting employees to make more holistic healthy choices around physical activity, nutrition, work-life balance, mental health and a variety of other factors.

An Associate Trainer with d’Oz International, Dr. Afsoon Ghazvinian is a health and wellness educator. Her passion for aligning the awareness of “prevention rather than treatment” with “nutrition and healthy lifestyles” has led to her involvement in many community services and activities in Singapore. To engage Dr. Afsoon, please email consultancy@d-oz.com or visit www.d-oz.com for more information.