01/20/2013 05:33 EST | Updated 03/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Quit The 'Smoke Break' At Work

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One of the most harmful behaviours we struggle with as a society is tobacco use. Sadly, tobacco use claims the lives of about 6,000 British Columbians each year — that's more than deaths caused by alcohol, drugs, motor vehicle crashes, suicide and murder.

Providing support and resources to help improve our health and the health of our friends and colleagues is a significant New Year's pledge that we can make in 2013.

This Jan. 20-26 is National Non-Smoking Week and conversations about how to quit will be popping up everywhere. But one aspect of the addiction that is less frequently discussed is smoking and its impact on the workplace — or perhaps even more importantly, the workplace's impact on the smoker.

Smoking can become wrapped up in daily work routines, making it harder to quit. Severing the "smoke break" chain takes a lot of preparation on the part of the individual trying to quit but a little support from co-workers and employers can make a big difference.

Employers and co-workers can help and be supportive by:

  • Showing concern for the individual no matter what you think about their smoking;
  • Not preaching, nagging or using guilt trips;
  • Keeping in regular contact with them to offer support and encouragement;
  • Being sensitive to the moods and needs of the smoker who is quitting; and,
  • Letting them know you believe they can do it and that they have your support whether they are able to quit now or later.

Tobacco-free workplaces create healthier environments for everyone and can have financial benefits for employers as well — smoking costs employers on average $3,396 per year per smoker as a result of absenteeism and productivity losses.

Quitting smoking is a personal choice and one that has to be made by the employee. Providing knowledge and support to guide employees along their path to becoming tobacco-free, though, is something employers can do.

More resources and information:

WellnessFits -

QuitNow Services provides free cessation counselling to B.C. residents online or over the phone: or 811

B.C. Smoking Cessation Program: