Smoking: It’s Also Bad for the Bottom Line

November 17 marks the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, an annual observance encouraging smokers to kick the habit. We’ve all heard about the negative health effects of tobacco use, but may not be as aware of the economic costs associated with it – in both the workplace and society as a whole.


Despite significant progress since the first Surgeon General’s report on tobacco use issued 52 years ago, smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and premature death in the U.S. About 42 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and about 15 million more smoke cigars or pipes.1 Add to that the increased use of other tobacco products like hookahs and e-cigarettes, and it’s clear there’s still more work to be done.


According to the 2014 report from the Surgeon General’s office, the estimated economic costs attributable to smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke now approach $300 billion annually.2 That number includes:

  • Direct medical costs of at least $130 billion.
  • Productivity losses from premature death of more than $150 billion a year.
  • Productivity losses from premature deaths caused by exposure to secondhand smoke of $5.6 billion a year.


In the workplace, it’s estimated that employees who smoke cost their employers an average of $5,816 a year and can cost as much as $10,125 annually.3 Here’s the full breakdown:

  • Smoke breaks: $3,077
  • Extra health care costs for self-insured employers: $2,056
  • Excess absenteeism: $517
  • Reduced productivity as a result of nicotine addiction: $462


Smokers are most successful in kicking the habit when they have support, and efforts to tackle cessation through workplace health and wellness programs have made huge strides.


Employers can partner with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) vendor that provides a wellness program. MHN, Health Net, Inc.’s behavioral health subsidiary, offers a wellness program that is included with its standard EAP – not an optional extra. Backed by the expertise of Mayo Clinic, MHN’s integrated wellness services consist of personal wellness coaching (for tobacco cessation, weight management, nutrition, exercise, and more), health assessments and an interactive wellness portal with tools and trackers, videos and online seminars.


To learn more, please visit, call 1-800-327-7526 or email



This article is for informational and self-help purposes only. It should not be treated as a substitute for financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or behavioral health care advice, or as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional.


Managed Health Network, Inc. (MHN) is a subsidiary of Health Net, Inc. The MHN family of companies includes Managed Health Network, MHN Services and MHN Government Services. Health Net and Managed Health Network are registered service marks of Health Net, Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved.





2The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General, January 17, 2014.

3Tobacco Control, “Estimating the Costs of a Smoking Employee,” June, 2013.




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Susan Peters