Among the unwritten rules of addressing tobacco in the workplace is “only promote tobacco cessation during open enrollment.”
Many employers might think this is their lone opportunity, once a year, to talk about smoking cessation at work options. But if you truly want to help employees, it’s time to cross out that rule.
Underlying this open-enrollment-only approach are 3 key beliefs that are largely inaccurate:
- That open enrollment is the only time your employees pay attention to their benefits mix and resources
- That it’s a hassle or waste of energy to run promotions at other times of the year since employees who use tobacco won’t pay attention
- That most people quit around New Year’s anyway so providing tobacco cessation support any other time of the year is a waste
While it’s true that there’s a surge at the beginning of the year when it comes to quit attempts, especially in January, that’s far from the only month that there’s interest.
After all, consider that nearly 70% of adult smokers in the U.S., and 62% of e-cigarette users, have noted that they want to quit.
Not all of them are waiting for the “right time.”
Unpredictable reasons to enroll in smoking cessation at work
One of the most significant reasons that tobacco cessation needs to be offered year-round is the reasons for quitting are unpredictable. Here are just a few reasons that tobacco users in our active online community cite for wanting to quit:
All of these layer on top of each other and there comes a point when they want to pivot toward cessation. Open enrollment was months ago though. Will they remember that your company offers evidence-based support to help them quit?
How to give visibility to smoking cessation at work
Promoting tobacco cessation year-round means making a commitment toward ongoing communication. It might feel like you’re repeating the message over and over—and you are—but that’s because you don’t know when each employee who uses tobacco is ready to pay attention.
Using multiple forms of promotion can help spark their interest, and that includes:
- Signage around smoke areas
- Mirror clings
- Mints/toothpicks branded with your quit program for health fair giveaways
- Lunch and learns
- T-shirts with the program name that people can wear at work to generate buzz
- Displays for breakrooms
Helping employees quit tobacco isn’t easy—if it was, open enrollment would probably be enough. But it’s worth it. Being able to offer support when employees need it most is what makes a good employer into a great one.