Smoke-free workplace? Lower health insurance premiums by promoting cessation programs.

Author:Ellis-Knapp, Jody
Position:HEALTHY WORKPLACES
 
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"Smoking is a tough nut to crack. Sometimes a person has to try several times before they are able to quit. People are trying, failing, trying again. It's hard to see just how successful the program is when we are dealing with such a difficult issue."

--Tyler Andrews * Vice President of Human Resources * Chugach Electric Association

Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking knows it is a difficult process. While we all know smoking is bad for you, the staggering statistics posted in a 2004 report by the Surgeon General highlight just how bad it really is. According to the report, cigarette smoking has been conclusively linked to diseases such as leukemia and other cancers, cataracts and pneumonia, with the toxins from smoking hitting nearly every part of the body.

Statistics indicate more than 12 million people have died from smoking since the original Surgeon General's report on the topic in 1964, with another 25 million estimated to die from smoking-related health issues in the future. The report states it is never too late to quit: the body starts showing improvements and healing almost immediately, and even a person who quits in their 60s can reduce their risk of dying from a smoking-related disease by 50 percent.

With statistics like these, it seems like quitting should be a no-brainer, an easy health fix that is guaranteed to improve quality of life. But smoking also is considered one of the most difficult addictions to overcome, having been compared by some as having the same level of addiction as heroin. Most people aren't able to quit the first time they try. According to the American Cancer Society, it can take as many as eight to 10 tries before a person is successful.

'ZERO TOLERANCE'

Many businesses now have a "zero tolerance" policy on tobacco, testing for it along with illegal substances, making it difficult for a smoker to obtain employment in an already tough economy. Luckily, there is plenty of help out there for those who want to quit. Some companies around Anchorage offer variations of smoking-cessation programs for their employees, from basic informational packets to more involved incentive programs. In addition, the State of Alaska's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program is a statewide program that works to eliminate tobacco use. This program works with other entities to help people stop smoking, as well as putting out education and information that might prevent people from starting.

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