Keep your employees safe and healthy: Help them quit tobacco

Over the last few months, many of us have focused on maintaining and protecting our health and well-being. And while washing our hands, wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing are crucial,1 there are other choices we can make to feel more empowered and in control of our health.

One of the most critical healthy choices an employee can make on their journey to better health is to quit tobacco. And there’s no better time to quit than now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that current or former smokers may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Although it’s not an easy journey, kicking the habit may be one of the most important steps your employees can take right now to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Tobacco use and your employees’ health

You probably know how smoking and tobacco use can increase the risk for serious health problems, including cancer, lung disease and heart disease. But tobacco use can also weaken a person’s immune system, which means the body may not be able to fight off a disease like COVID-19 easily.2 Smoking can also reduce lung capacity, which further increases the risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.3

In addition to protecting your most valuable assets, your employees, reducing your team’s tobacco use can also affect your bottom line. Because cigarettes, vaping and other tobacco products are major drivers of serious health conditions, these products can ultimately increase your health care costs.4

Many other positive changes can come as a result of quitting tobacco. When your employees quit tobacco, they can:
• Increase the chance of having a healthy baby.5
• Reduce their child’s risk of health problems caused by secondhand smoke, including bronchitis, asthma and ear infections.6
• Save money.
• Improve their sense of taste and smell.
• Improve energy levels.7

Adults who use tobacco may already want to quit

Quitting tobacco is no easy task, so you must support your employees throughout the process. Sometimes, it’s a matter of having an extra push to get someone over the finish line. Other times, it’s offering supports that guide them on each step of their journey.

The good news: Many adults who use tobacco today want to quit. Roughly 70% of adult smokers in the U.S. say they want to stop, and more than half try to quit each year.8

Evidence shows that cessation programs and treatments work, but they are often underused. Fewer than one in three adults who try to quit use proven cessation methods.9 By making these proven methods available to your employees — and making them easy to access — you’re more likely to see your team successfully quit tobacco.

Treatments that have been proven to work include10:

  • Coaching — Individual, group and tele-counseling are all useful.
  • Medication — This includes nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and two non-nicotine products approved by the FDA.
  • Technology — Text messaging and web-based interventions can help keep people on track toward their goals anytime, anywhere.
  • Integrated treatment — A combination of effective treatments that work together to give the best chances for success.

The Optum Quit For Life® program supports employees each step of the way

If you’re looking to create a tobacco-free team, you don’t have to tackle the task alone. Optum Quit For Life can make it easy for your employees to access effective treatment programs.

Quit For Life combines evidence-based cessation treatments and tailors them to each employee’s needs. The program includes:
Quit Coach® — Employees can access coaches 24/7 for advice, tips and encouragement.
Personalized plans — Quit Coaches work side-by-side with employees to develop a quit plan that fits their goals and preferences.
Medications — Participants can qualify for nicotine replacement therapy at no cost, such as gum or patches, which can save employees up to $800.11
Mobile app — The Quit For Life mobile app features interactive and personalized content, daily tips, urge management tools and access to Quit Coaches.
Online support — Employees can access expert-led online learning with tips, advice and support for their quitting journey. The online tool also includes a portal where employees can customize a dynamic action plan.
Text support — The Text2Quit™ program sends daily texts to encourage employees and help them better handle cravings.
Specialized content — A program is available for individuals with behavioral health conditions and offers tailored support.

Learn more about how to help your employees live tobacco-free.

Author: Etta Short, Sr. Product Manager


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How to protect yourself & others. Updated September 11, 2020. Accessed September 28, 2020.

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who are at higher risk for severe illness. Updated June 25, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

3 World Health Organization. Q&A: tobacco and COVID-19. May 27, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

4 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking cessation: a report of the Surgeon General – smoking cessation by the numbers. Updated January 23, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of quitting. Updated April 28, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health effects of secondhand smoke. Updated February 27, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

7 American Lung Association. Reasons to quit smoking. Updated July 13, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Benefits of quitting. Updated April 28, 2020. Accessed July 31, 2020.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Optum. NRT potential savings calculated May 2018.

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