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New Survey Shows Majority of Employers Rank Smoking as One of Their Greatest Priority Health Issues, But Only 2 Percent Provide Comprehensive Smoking Cessation Benefits for Employees
Date:10/25/2007

Employers are most likely to offer two of five CDC-recommended smoking

cessation benefits components

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- A nationwide survey of employers released today shows that a majority of employers ranked smoking as one of the greatest priority health issues facing their companies, second only to obesity, but only two percent offer the comprehensive benefit recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (1) The results were announced at a plenary session at the National Business Group on Health/Integrated Benefits Institute Joint Forum on Health, Productivity & Absence Management.

"It's encouraging that companies recognize smoking as a top priority. Nicotine addiction from smoking is a chronic, relapsing medical condition that studies have shown is best treated with a combination of medication and counseling," said Ron Finch, vice president at the Business Group. "Employers are beginning to recognize that tobacco use is the low hanging fruit relative to employee health status and health care cost, but few have implemented evidence-based tobacco cessation benefits."

The survey of 506 companies with 1,000 or more employees explored employers' understanding and perceptions of the business impact of smoking, as well as the barriers to implementing comprehensive smoking cessation benefits.

Costs of Smoking to Employers a Major Concern

Employers' greatest priority health issues were obesity (54 percent), smoking (51 percent) and high blood pressure (47 percent). (1) Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents said that they believe providing employees with smoking cessation benefits can help improve employee health (78 percent) and decrease health care costs (74 percent).(1) Seventy percent of employers viewed offering smoking cessation benefits as the "most valuable" way to encourage employees to quit smoking.(1) Indeed, 85 percent of employers agreed that providing smoking cessation benefits can be cost-effective for their companies.(1)According to the survey, the potential to reduce health care costs motivates employers to provide employees with smoking cessation benefits (82 percent) more than other business outcomes, including increased job productivity (57 percent), reduced absenteeism (46 percent) and reduced life insurance costs (46 percent).(1)

In regard to the costs of smoking, employers believed long-term medical costs were the most harmful to their business (66 percent).(1) Studies have shown, however, that smoking also incurs significant short-term medical and lost productivity costs through illnesses and smoke breaks, higher fire insurance rates and facility maintenance expenses.(2)

When asked to estimate an adult smoker's average excess medical costs to the employer, more than half responded that they don't know or estimated the cost at less than $1,000.(1)A 1999 study showed the economic burden of smoking to be approximately $1,623 in excess medical expenses per smoking employee,

plus an additional $1,760 in health-related productivity losses per smoking employee.(3)

Benefits Largely Not In Line with CDC Recommendations

Ninety-six percent of employers believe that providing all of the components of a smoking cessation benefit as outlined by the CDC, in partnership with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), would be beneficial, yet only two percent of employers offer their employees the comprehensive benefit.(1) The CDC recommends companies:

-- Cover at least four counseling sessions of at least 30 minutes each,

including telephone and individual counseling sessions

-- Cover both prescription medication and over-the-counter nicotine

replacement treatments

-- Provide counseling and medication coverage for at least two smoking

cessation attempts per year

-- Eliminate or minimize co-pays or deductibles for counseling and

medications(4)

"Although only two percent of companies offer the CDC-recommended smoking cessation benefit, more than half say they are doing more to encourage employees to quit smoking this year," said Ron Finch. "We need to continue this momentum and help companies understand the value of investing in comprehensive smoking cessation benefits - in both employee health and in dollars."

According to the CDC, smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S., responsible for 440,000 deaths annually.(5) Tobacco use leads to more than $167 billion in direct health care costs each year in the U.S.(6)

To provide employers with practical guidance for implementing smoking cessation benefits, the Business Group has launched a new web site, available at http://www.BusinessGroupHealth.org, produced with input and support from the CDC. In addition, the Business Group's Purchaser's Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, launched last year in collaboration with AHRQ and the CDC, provides employers with step-by-step tools for assessing and implementing preventive health benefits, including smoking cessation, and is available online at http://www.BusinessGroupHealth.org.

About the Survey

The online survey, which was conducted by StrategyOne, an applied research consulting firm, and fielded by Harris Interactive Service Bureau, polled 506 employers with more than 1,000 employees - 253 with fewer than 10,000 employees and 253 with 10,000 employees or more, including 56 employers with more than 100,000 employees. Interviews were conducted from August 31, 2007, through September 7, 2007. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent at the 95 percent level of confidence, which means that in 95 out of 100 times that a sample of this size is drawn, the results would not vary by more than 4.4 percentage points in either direction. This educational initiative was sponsored by Pfizer Inc.

About the National Business Group on Health

The National Business Group on Health, representing more than 284 large employers, is the nation's only nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to finding innovative and forward-thinking solutions to large employers' most important health care and related benefit issues. The Business Group identifies and shares best practices in health benefits, disability, health and productivity, related paid time off and work/life balance issues. Business Group members, primarily FORTUNE 500 and large public sector employers, provide health coverage for more than 55 million U.S. workers, retirees and their families.

REFERENCES:

1 Insights on Employers' Attitudes and Perceptions of the Value of Smoking

Cessation. National Business Group on Health. 2007.

2 Bunn WB, Stave GM, Downs KE, Alvir JM, Dirani R. "Effect of smoking

status on productivity loss." J Occup Environ Med. 2006; 48:1099-1108.

3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual smoking-attributable

mortality, years of potential life lost, and economic costs - United

States, 1995-1999. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

2002;51(14):300-03. American Cancer Society. Available at:

http://www.cdc.gov/MMWR/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5114a2.htm. Accessed October

11, 2007.

4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coverage for Tobacco Use

Cessation Treatment: Why, What, and How. Available at:

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/cessation/00_pdfs/

ReimbursementBrochureFull.pdf. Accessed October 11, 2007.

5 Centers for Prevention and Health Services. Reducing the Burden of

Smoking on Employee Health and Productivity. Washington, DC: National

Business Group on Health; 2003. Available at:

http://www.businessgrouphealth.org/pdfs/issuebrief_cphssmoking.pdf.

Accessed October 11, 2007.

6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual Smoking-Attributable

Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses-United

States, 1997-2001. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2005;54(25):

625-628. Available at:

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5425a1.htm. Accessed October

11, 2007.

Contact: Joleen Zanuzoski

212/642-7703

joleen.zanuzoski@edelman.com

Ron Finch

National Business Group on Health

202/585-1827


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SOURCE National Business Group on Health
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