Companies trying to improve absence management could focus on the issue of smoking in their workforce, with new research highlighting the financial costs of the habit for employers.

Findings published online in the Tobacco Control journal showed that organisations have to pay almost £4,000 more every year to employ someone who smokes compared to a non-smoker.

The extra expenses are the result of a number of factors, including absenteeism, regular cigarette breaks and healthcare costs.

A team of researchers from the College of Public Health and Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University in the US analysed previous studies on the subject and estimated that low productivity caused by days off work typically costs employers £344 a year per smoking employee.

The cost of presenteeism – lower productivity while working because of nicotine addiction – was put at £307.

Cigarette breaks result in an average annual loss of £2,045, according to the study, while excess healthcare expenses amount to £1,367 a year.

The likelihood of a smoker dying at a younger age than a non-smoker means annual pension costs for employers are typically £195 lower for workers who smoke.

In conclusion, the researchers said smokers place "significant excess costs" on private organisations, adding that the results of the research could help companies develop new policies regarding the habit.

"It is important to remember that the costs imposed by tobacco use are not simply financial costs," they added. "It is not possible to put a price on the lost lives and the human suffering caused by smoking.

"The desire to help one's employees lead healthier and longer lives should provide an additional impetus for employers to work towards eliminating tobacco from the workplace."

A government advertising campaign launched in the UK this week issues new warnings about the risks of passive smoking, particularly for children.

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