08 May 2012

Smokers work one hour less per day

The average smoker spends 244 hours a year smoking at work - and this adds up to 1,2 years over the course of a working life.


Research estimates that the average smoker spends approximately one hour per day on feeding the habit at work. From an annual perspective, the one-hour breaks add up to 244 hours of lost productivity per year and 1.2 years over the course of an average working life (44.5 years).

“From a local perspective, 23% of South Africa’s adult population, or 7 million individuals, smoke. Over and above the 244 hours lost per smoker per year, this group of individuals also has a 33.3% higher absenteeism rate and a shortened career by 9.1% when compared to a non-smoker,” says Professor Jacques Snyman, clinical advisor for Resolution Health Medical Scheme.

Huge direct healthcare costs

The habit’s burden on the healthcare system can also not be ignored. A 2009 study by the USA Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that smokers not only cost the country $97 billion a year in lost productivity but an additional $96 billion a year in direct healthcare costs.

“Smoking damages almost every organ in the body and often results in the individual requiring costly healthcare treatments in the long-term. The ultimate result is a marked increase in healthcare utilisation as smokers typically fall ill more often and claim more than non-smokers. For example, globally, smoking is responsible for approximately 71% of lung cancer, 42% of chronic respiratory disease and 10% of cardiovascular disease. From a cost perspective, all three diseases fall in the top ten list of most expensive chronic diseases for medical schemes. The burden on the private and public healthcare system as a whole is significant. Combined with the substantial loss in productivity, the habit is having a resoundingly negative effect on South Africa’s economy,” says Snyman.

72% of SA smokers want to quit

Encouragingly, 72% of South African smokers admit that they want to quit with 24% having attempted without success. Key to the process says Snyman is to provide these individuals with the necessary tools and incentives to follow through and corporate SA is perfectly poised to drive internal “stop smoking” initiatives.

“Nowadays most medical schemes will cover a portion of the cost or offer a discount on smoking cessation programmes and information on these courses is easily obtainable from the healthcare providers or medical schemes. Employers should take a proactive approach in encouraging smokers to take full advantage of these offers and allow them time off work to attend these programmes. There is no one-size-fits-all programme. Smokers need to consult their doctors to establish what will work best as some programmes may include highly effective scheduled medicines,” says Snyman.

Snyman suggests that, where there are shortfalls in medical scheme coverage, employers seek cessation programmes that are offered free of charge.

The stats on smoking

  • Every cigarette makes seven seconds of your life disappear in a puff of smoke
  • According to the World Health Organisation, one person dies every six seconds due to tobacco use, killing approximately six million people per year
  • In the next two decades, the habit’s annual death toll is expected to rise to over eight million
  • According to the National Council Against Smoking, 125 South Africans die from the habit per day
  • If all smokers in South Africa simultaneous nipped the habit in the butt, 58% of all lung cancer deaths, 37% of all Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease deaths, 20% of all TB deaths and 23% of vascular deaths could be prevented

(Press release from resolution health Medical Scheme, May 2012) 



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