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No Tobacco Day: guide to helping employees

Published by: LifeWorks,

“That was a vicious, vicious cycle,” Rebecca said to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about her long, combined struggle with depression and smoking.

Rebecca, now 57, began smoking when she was 16 and smoked into adulthood — she quickly realized quitting was no easy feat. At 33, she was diagnosed with depression, which fueled her smoking habits and dependency.

After losing many teeth as a result of gum disease (a side effect of smoking), Rebecca knew she needed to get a handle on her depression and quit smoking in order to kick-off a healthy lifestyle.

We are happy to report Rebecca was finally able to quit smoking, and as a result, is feeling mentally and physically healthier.

Many of your employees can relate to Rebecca’s story and struggles. With World No Tobacco Day on May 31, there’s no better time for superhuman resources professionals to help their team take control of their tobacco habits.

The World Health Organization (WHO) holds this event every year with a call to confront the global tobacco crisis. This year’s theme, “Tobacco: a threat to development,” proposes measures the government and public should take to promote health and development.

So, here’s what you need to know about No Tobacco Day and how to improve employee wellbeing:

Dangers of smoking

As a superhuman resources professional, your desire to help employees both mentally and physically in the workplace runs deep. However, smoking attacks your chances of achieving maximum employee wellbeing every day.

From increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease, stomach cancer, gum disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), smoking is incredibly lethal. In fact, a recent report from the CDC found smoking causes more deaths each year than the following causes combined:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Illegal drug use
  • Alcohol use
  • Motor vehicle injuries
  • Firearm-related incidents

Much like Rebecca’s story, any smoking-related disease can cause an overwhelming amount of stress, depression, and even an inability to continue working.

Unfortunately, the mental and physical stress tobacco puts on just one employee negatively affects your entire team’s overall employee wellbeing by putting a heightened pressure and workload on everyone.

What you can do

Putting up “No Smoking” signs around your building and asking everyone to not smoke on company property only goes so far. Not only does this not help remote employees, it doesn’t leave a lasting effect on your team when they go home.

It’s superhuman resources professionals’ jobs to raise awareness and show continual, non-judgmental support for employees fighting a smoking addiction.

Here’s where you can start:

Taper-off program

Let your team know you understand quitting is a challenge and you don’t expect it to happen overnight by announcing a taper-off program.

Provide smokers with e-cigarettes, Nicorette gum, and other resources to help them manage a slow, but successful path toward quitting. It’s also important to help them track their nicotine intake by giving them a journal to help them see and celebrate their progress.

Rewards program

May 31 is just the start. Keep your team interested in no tobacco days by creating tiered rewards. Entice them to keep from ‘breaking the chain’ of consecutive smoke-free days to build confidence and teamwork throughout your entire team.

Employee assistance program

Promote your EAP’s services that help smokers quit. This can include everything from smoking cessation programs to counseling services.

Many employees are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with EAPs. So, gather testimonials from current employees who used an EAP to successfully quit smoking or reach a similar goal. Create a unique name for these testimonials like the ‘I Spoke Up’ series, and continue incorporating it into your EAP marketing campaign.

Smoke-free competition

Place a large calendar in a common area to publicly show which smokers are keeping their streak alive and who completely abstains. Encourage them to start teams to support one another and have a fun battle to reaching freedom from smoking.

Zero-tolerance policy

Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for smoking, and instead encourage ‘fresh air breaks.’ Provide outdoor areas that employees can enjoy without temptations.

For example, instead of smoking together, you can encourage employees to play games in an outdoor recreational area with basketball hoops, chess, a batting cage, etc.


Form employee resource groups to hold smokers accountable and provide support. Encourage smokers to team up with one another as accountability partners. They can celebrate one another’s victories, while also understanding setbacks, cravings, and nicotine withdrawal side effects.

How are you using No Tobacco Day to improve employee wellbeing?

Make your employees feel loved