Mon 8th Sep 2014
Calling all workplaces – take the stop smoking challenge
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is calling on businesses across Northern Ireland to take part in a new initiative to help support employees who want to stop smoking.
The ‘Workplace 28 day stop smoking challenge’ is being launched on 1 October, and businesses can sign up to help employees who smoke to give up their habit.
Smoking is the single greatest cause of preventable illness, premature death and health inequality throughout Northern Ireland. Each year around 2,300 people die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses such as coronary heart disease, stroke and many cancers.
Thirty-two percent of routine and manual workers here smoke, and for many, smoke breaks are part of their daily routine at work. This makes the workplace the ideal setting for breaking their smoking habit.
Gerry Bleakney, Strategic Lead for Tobacco Control with the PHA, said: “Helping employees to stop smoking not only benefits the individuals themselves, but also has a positive impact on the organisation as a whole as it helps to deliver better health in the workforce, increased productivity, improved staff morale and reduced absence due to sickness.
“We want to encourage and support more routine and manual workers to stop smoking and are calling for businesses to work with us to make this happen.
“The challenge encourages smokers to give up smoking for 28 days, because research shows that if a person stops smoking for 28 days or more, they are five times more likely to stop for good.
“There is also a financial benefit for workers who stop smoking – with the cost of tobacco now at an all-time high, quitting a 20-a-day habit will deliver an average £2,920 a year saving, which is a nice addition to the pay packet and could pay for a great holiday or to clear bills.
“Registering your interest in participating as a business is easy – just visit www.want2stop.info, click on the ‘Workplace Challenge’ icon and follow the business registration link.
“The website is packed with information and resources regarding the challenge and contact details for our specialist stop smoking workplace advisers.
“Alternatively, if you do not wish to register as a business, you can still promote the challenge among your workforce and encourage individual smokers to register.
“There are more than 600 free stop smoking specialist services across Northern Ireland that they can avail of. For more information and useful tips to help you stop smoking, visit the PHA’s ‘Want 2 Stop’ website at www.want2stop.info and order a ‘Quit Kit’ free of charge. Alternatively, contact the Smokers’ Helpline on 0808 812 8008.”
Ann McGregor, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “The ‘Workplace 28 day stop smoking challenge’ is an excellent opportunity for employers to help improve the health of their employees which in turn will bring many benefits.
“Smoke breaks and additional sick leave taken by smokers are costing UK businesses £8.7 billion annually in lost productivity, so helping staff who smoke to quit makes sense both economically and in terms of health, and shows that a business is committed to improving the wellbeing of its staff.
“I would encourage business to avail of this opportunity and to make use of the stop smoking support that is available to workplaces all across Northern Ireland.”
The workplace 28 day stop smoking challenge is a PHA initiative in partnership with the Western Health and Social Care Trust; Belfast City Council; Northern Group Systems, Cancer Focus and Closing the Gap.