Kicking smoking into touch

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National No Smoking Day on 9 March is a great opportunity to educate staff about the benefits of quitting, but should always form part of a wider and ongoing wellbeing programme.

With National No Smoking Day on 9 March, most responsible employers – and those in charge of employee health and wellbeing/wellness programmes – will see this as an opportunity to extend support to colleagues who smoke, to help them to make positive changes. And rightly so. At Allen Carr, we champion anything that encourages smokers to achieve positive behaviour changes and over 35 years we’ve helped more than 50 million people worldwide in their attempts to stop smoking.

Smokers already know that it is unhealthy, costly and often anti-social to smoke. Photograph: iStockSmokers already know that it is unhealthy, costly and often anti-social to smoke. Photograph: iStock

However, while awareness days can be a good prompt or reminder, many smokers are put off by the concept which they can interpret as judgemental, invasive, or ‘preachy’. Indeed, for maximum effectiveness, employee wellbeing should be addressed through a carefully planned, year-round strategy, that is not limited to approaches like a once-a-year campaign on quitting smoking. For instance, workers often benefit from (and genuinely welcome), well-thought-out support and inspiration at work aimed at helping them to improve their health, such as by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising more often and reducing alcohol consumption.

As a leading authority on addiction, self-help and personal development, at Allen Carr’s Easyway we have seen a distinct change in the way employees respond to company health initiatives as we have moved through the pandemic. This means employers need to be flexible in the way they support staff. Restrictive, prohibitive or demanding messaging and policies around worker wellbeing (including stopping smoking), will not garner the intended positive response. To change any negative behaviours around their personal health, employees need to feel genuinely encouraged and supported and some will want and prefer to engage with an employer’s initiative on a confidential basis.

The impact of Covid-19 saw negative behaviours, such as smoking, drinking, gambling, overeating, sugar and carbohydrate addiction, increase over lockdown. And the effects of this will be felt in the workplace for several years to come. For example, we may see a potential decline in workers’ general physical and mental health affecting their overall contribution and performance at work.

John Dicey: "At Allen Carr’s Easyway, we instead focus on the reasons why people smoke, rather than why they shouldn’t."John Dicey: "At Allen Carr’s Easyway, we instead focus on the reasons why people smoke, rather than why they shouldn’t."

With many people now starting to return to the physical workplace, I would suggest that rather than restricting messaging on the benefits of good health to one-off campaigns like National No Smoking Day, employers should have a wider, ongoing and open discussion with staff about the negative impact of poor health habits and how the business will always seek to support those who wish to make positive changes to their lifestyle. For example, although people who consume excessive amounts of alcohol or misuse drugs will often feel uncomfortable speaking to their employer about their struggles with these substances, it is good practice for employers to support those who want to change their relationship with these substances.

There are also other behaviours that may not be viewed as having a particularly serious impact on workers’ health, safety and productivity but can nevertheless negatively affect an individual’s ability to perform to the best of their potential, impact on their concentration and increase the risk of errors – for instance, due to fatigue. These include late night gaming and smartphone addiction.

Therefore, when seeking to educate workers about the benefits of healthy behaviours – and implement programmes to support people to make healthy choices – employers should take a holistic, 360° approach. They should seek to offer support to workers on all aspects of good health, as this will avoid ‘demonising’ and alienating people by targeting just a single harmful behaviour or group – such as smokers.

However, if you are looking to do something specifically encouraging people to stop smoking, remember that smokers already know that it is unhealthy, costly and often anti-social to smoke. At Allen Carr’s Easyway, we instead focus on the reasons why people smoke, rather than why they shouldn’t. We work to remove the smoker’s belief that smoking provides any sort of genuine pleasure or crutch. We get would-be quitters to see the experience of stopping smoking itself as positive rather than feeling that they’re ‘giving up’ something precious or rewarding.

According to the latest ONS statistics, around one in four (25.9 per cent) of people in the UK who work in routine and manual occupations smoke, compared with one in 10 people in managerial professions. If you are seeking to encourage manual workers to stop smoking, it’s important to offer them something a little bit different. Many will have tried nicotine patches and gum, vaping and a host of other ways of quitting smoking – so providing a fresh, exciting, dynamic offer of help to them is essential.

Read John Dicey's top 10 tips you can pass on to actively encourage staff to stop smoking here: https://www.britsafe.org/safety-management/2023/time-to-quit-top-tips-for-an-effective-stop-smoking-programme-at-work

John Dicey is Global CEO and senior therapist at Allen Carr’s Easyway

For more advice on stopping smoking see:




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