Smoking is the most preventable cause of disease, illness and death.

It has long been known that smoking is bad for you, and the health implications seem to be endless. The majority of ‘quit smoking’ campaigns have visually shocking focus on smoking related illnesses and diseases such as cancer and damage to the lungs, heart, arteries, teeth etc. It is important to know that smoking not only affects the body but also the mind, consequently having detrimental effects on work performance.

Cigarette smoke contains about 7000 chemicals and over 60 known cancer causing chemicals. Smoking causes harm to nearly every organ in the body and can result in long term diseases affecting the respiratory system, circulatory system, immune system, musculoskeletal system, sexual organs, as well as the development of babies.

Jenny Hope for the Daily Mail explains “smoking is known to be highly damaging to physical health, being a major factor in cancer and heart disease.” Additionally, British scientists have now found that “lighting up regularly has been associated with a sharp decline in the performance of the brain.”

Scientists examined smokers and non-smokers over a 4-8 year period testing; memory, planning, and overall mental ability. Researchers found that smokers performed poorly in comparison to non-smokers, and smoking ‘consistently’ reduced all three performance measures after four years.

There is also evidence that smoking can lead to dementia. Dr Simon Ridley, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said “research has repeatedly linked smoking and high blood pressure to a greater risk of cognitive decline and dementia.”

With smoking known to cause many health issues for the body and the brain, just how can it affect work performance and productivity in turn impacting the business as well as the individual?

Four ways smoking impacts the workplace:

  1. Smokers generally have longer and more frequent breaks than the company’s set arrangement.
  2. Studies show smokers have poorer than average work performance and productivity.
  3. Smokers tend to have more sick days. Peter Lundborg Ph.D., in a study of more than 14,000 Swedish workers, found smokers took an average of 11 more sick days than non-smokers.
  4. Rachel Zupek on CNN.com states that “employers that hire smokers bear indirect costs, including more employee absenteeism, productivity losses and increased early retirement due to smoking related illness.”

Looking at this there is no wonder companies are starting to implement smoke free policies in their workplace as a part of their work health and safety arrangements.

Procare Learning has many courses covering health initiatives such as Understanding Mental Health, our Health and Wellbeing Program as well as health promotion units covered in the Certificate IV in Work Health and Safety. It is important that everyone in the workplace realises that Work Health and Safety does not only focus on the safety aspect but importantly needs a huge emphasis on the health aspect as well. The Understanding Mental Health Program also illustrates how behaviours such as smoking can negatively impact on people’s mental health making them more susceptible to mental health issues or adding to them.

Many studies have shown dramatic positive changes in workplaces that have adopted smoke free policies. Improvements include workplace productivity increase and absenteeism decrease among former smokers (compared with current smokers). Furthermore health impacts were immediate and dramatic- finding heart attacks nearly halving.

So before you pick up that next cigarette, or see a colleague or loved one reach for a smoke, remind yourself and them of the impact that smoking has not only on the body, but on the brain and work performance. You can save the detrimental effects of smoking from personal and professional lives.

Phoebe Lahey [email protected]