3 reasons to help your employees quit tobacco in 2019

What if you could improve employee health and save your company thousands of dollars in the process? When you empower employees to quit using tobacco, you can.

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the United States.1 More than 480,000 Americans die of a smoking-related disease, and another 16 million live with at least one tobacco-related illness. That’s not all: Secondhand smoke threatens the health of 58 million nonsmokers.2

Tobacco use damages your company’s productivity and bottom line as well. For example, in 2019 employee tobacco use will cost U.S. employers $300 billion in medical expenses, lost productivity, worker’s comp and smoking breaks.3 That’s a cost of $3,905 per tobacco user, per year.3,4,5

2019: The Year of Cessation
To raise awareness of the critical role of smoking cessation in reducing tobacco-related death and chronic disease, the Office on Smoking and Health (OSH) — part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — has declared 2019 its Year of Cessation. Throughout the year, the OSH will encourage quit attempts among smokers, evaluate smoking cessation strategies, reinforce the efforts of health professionals on the front lines of treating nicotine dependence and more.6

Optum® helps people live healthier lives and, through our Quit For Life® tobacco cessation program, supports the CDC’s efforts to help people quit tobacco use for good.

The tobacco landscape is changing
The good news: Cigarette smoking has declined in recent years. Yet about 34 million adults continue to smoke cigarettes, and another 2,000 people under age 18 smoke their first cigarette every day.7,8 What’s more, the changing tobacco landscape now includes electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDs), often called e-cigarettes or e-cigs, vapes, juice or e-juice, or Juul (a popular product name used generically).

People are using tobacco differently than ever before, so the tools needed to help them quit must change as well. In this new landscape, tobacco cessation programs must be innovative, personalized and offer users a diverse set of tools to succeed.

Help your employees quit successfully
About two out of every three tobacco users want to quit. More than half try to break the habit every year, but long-term success isn’t easy.9

Quit For Life can help. We’ve been helping people quit using tobacco for more than 30 years, and we have the insight, experience and strategies to help participants quit all types of tobacco use and become nicotine-free for life.

As an employer, why should you help your people quit tobacco?

  1. Improved employee health and productivity
    When you help empower your workforce to live healthier lives by quitting tobacco, you can decrease time lost to sick days and help prevent potentially costly and debilitating illnesses. Plus, you reduce exposure to secondhand smoke.
  2. Decreased costs
    The average return on investment with Quit For Life is 2x within two years from program implementation for a single cohort of quitters.10 Quit For Life delivers potentially lower chronic illness rates and medical expenses. (This is not a guarantee. Individual plan results will vary.)
  3. Healthier workforce of the future
    ENDs use is rapidly increasing among young people. By implementing a tobacco cessation program now, you’ll help improve the health of tomorrow’s workforce.

Personalized quit programs for every tobacco user
We know quitting is hard. Whatever type of tobacco your employees use, and no matter how long they’ve been using it, we can help. We’ve made quitters out of heavy users, daily vapers, occasional light smokers, repeat quitters and everyone in between.

Our comprehensive, clinically proven program helps employees overcome nicotine dependence with an evidence-based combination of physical, psychological and behavioral strategies. We’ve helped 4.3 million people since 1985, with a 51% steady quit rate, and 97% recommend our program.11,12,13

As a leading tobacco cessation solution provider in the country, we know there is more than one way to quit successfully. Quit For Life offers a diverse set of quit tools and expert coaches who help your employees with an effective mix of services to help them quit. Our innovative, personalized plans support employees through phone-based coaching, text messaging, online learning, medication and 24/7 support — all individualized to their specific needs.

To learn more, and help your employees on their quit journey, visit Optum.com.

About the Author

Mary Kokstis HeadShotMary Kokstis
Senior Director, Product Management, Prevention for Optum

Mary Kokstis has been involved in quitline services since 2000, having served in roles including call center operations, implementation, RFP sales and client services. Her 18 years of experience is grounded in the meaningful and powerful impact telephonic behavior change coaching can have on an individual. Ms. Kokstis has a 360 degree view of the quitline landscape and a unique understanding of the markets that purchase tobacco cessation services, reasons why they purchase and their specific needs. She is a senior member of Optum’s telephonic and digital wellness coaching product team, which includes our tobacco cessation offering. She has had the opportunity to oversee the satisfaction of our 700+ commercial employer and health plan clients. She continues to listen to both the consumer and market needs with passion, holistic perspective and innovation. Mary has her Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health and Fitness & Exercise Science from Western Washington University.


1. cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/aag/tobacco-use.htm.
2. cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fast_facts/index.htm.
3. Berman M, Crane R, Seiber E, et al. Estimating the cost of a smoking employee. Tob. Control. 2014;23(5):428–433.
4. Mitchell R. Rally Dose Response Study. Healthcare Analytics. February 2018. 
5. Baker C, Bruno M, Birol E, et al. Smoking cessation is associated with lower indirect costs. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 2018;60(6):490–495.
6. cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/cessation/2019-year-of-cessation/index.html. accessed February 4, 2019.
7. American Lung Association. Trends in tobacco use, 2011, updated with information from the CDC Burden of Tobacco Use In the US 2016 study.
8. 2019 National Health Interview Survey.
9. BMJ Journals. Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers. bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/6/e011045. Accessed February 26, 2018.
10. Optum Quit For Life Return on investment model for an individual quitter, as of Oct. 2018. 
11. Optum Quit For Life book of business, as of Dec. 2018.
12. Quit For Life employer book of business survey results. Results measured among responders to a survey at six months post-program enrollment, with quit-rate success defined as 30+ days of abstinence from all forms of tobacco, cumulative from 2006 to Q2, 2018.
13. Quit For Life employer book of business survey results. Results measured among responders to a survey at six months post-program enrollment, who reported they would recommend the program, cumulative from 2017 to Q2, 2018.

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