Smoking: A Career Killer?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

My co-workers and I were having a discussion over lunch about whether or not smoking can have an effect on your career potential. As a non-smoker, I think smoking not only affects your health but also how people perceive you as an employee. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Thanks!

SmokingHi, Concerned Co-workers:

In my opinion, smoking can definitely have a negative effect on your career. According to a New York Times article, one in every five Americans smoke on a regular basis and, on average, employees who smoke cost employers $3,391 more a year for health care and lost productivity. If your company has 500 employees, this alone can cost almost $1.7 million a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cigarette smoking costs companies more than $193 billion (i.e., $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures).

Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking at the effects of smoking on your career or business.

  • The smell of cigarette smoke lingers on your clothing. People who do not smoke may be annoyed, repulsed, or dismissive of those who come in to the office smelling of stogies.
  • Smoking breaks can take a huge chunk of time out of the day. On average, it takes 3-5 minutes to smoke a cigarette. If you look at my post Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime? you can see how much in lost profits just two smoke breaks a day can amount to over the course of the year.
  • Smoking comes with its own set of negative connotations. Hiring employers or managers may view this habit as a red flag and think that the person is negligent or lazy.
  • Studies estimate that smokers are two to three times more often absent from work.
  • Smoking2Smoking may be deal breakers in a company’s hiring policy. More companies are adopting policies that stipulate that smokers will not be hired in states where it is legal to do so. If you are a smoker, you could be limiting your opportunities for hire or advancement. The Towers Watson survey found that 4% of companies have adopted such a policy and 2% more are expected to each year. In the same survey, 52% of companies banned smoking on office property, a number that’s expected to increase to 60% next year. Meanwhile, 42% of companies use surcharges for tobacco users at approximately $50/month to cover health care costs.

Smoking is not only bad for your health; it has the potential to kill your career.

See below for a great video on both sides of the issue:

Readers, what are your thoughts on this issue? Should employers be able to ban smoking at the workplace and be allowed to not hire someone because of their habit?

Best wishes,

Anita

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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