Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve read posts on overweight, obesity, fast food, junk food, kids and television, and even the impact obesity has on global warming—and you’ve read some pretty scary statistics dealing with what all of this is costing us.

You’ve also probably picked up on the fact that LoneStart is a Wellness program, and as such works with organizations and individuals to create both a habit and culture of wellness—it’s about making better nutritional choices and finding ways to become more physically active. And, while LoneStart was not developed as a smoking cessation program per se, we’ve received feedback from participants who have applied the LoneStart principles to “unhealthy” choices such as smoking, and have been successful in their efforts. So this post will provide a few scary statistics in this area as well.

  • American employers spend an additional $753 per year in medical costs on smokers.
  • An additional $68 billion in medical care is spent each year in the U.S. on tobacco deaths.
  • Smokers miss an average of two or more workdays per year than nonsmokers and cost employers $47 billion per year in lost productivity.

As we know, wellness is about improving health—and smoking is just one risk factor. It is also a major contributor to chronic illness, as are obesity, overweight and physical inactivity. While 23 percent of the population in the U.S. smokes, 65 percent is obese or overweight. In fact, by 2012, just four years from now, three of four adults are expected to be overweight or obese.

What happens when health care costs reach the point where employers say we’re not going to hire someone who is overweight or obese or who smokes? What happens when smokers, overweight and obese employees are fired for their unhealthy lifestyle choices?

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