Although quitting smoking reduces absenteeism, those who never smoked generally took the least number of sick days of all the groups.

‘Large financial and social costs due to smoking come in the form of productivity loss as a result of death, absenteeism, sick leave or disability of the work-force,’ wrote Stephen Weng and colleagues from the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Nottingham.

Occupational Care South Africa (OCSA) estimated that productivity lost due to absenteeism cost the South African Economy R12 billion in 2009.

‘The sheer scale of the finances suggests that decreases in smoking prevalencein the work-force may result in significant gains in productivity through reduced absenteeism,’ the Addiction authors wrote. ‘These costs may provide motivation for employers to support smoking cessation programmes, as potential near-term benefitsmay be gained by a reduction in absenteeism.’

For the study, researchers reviewed the results from 29 relevant journal articles publishedover the last 50 years.

The studies comparing current and non-smokers included data from 71  516 participants, and showed a 33 percent increased risk of absenteeism in current smoker, translating to 2.74 extra days off from work.

Compared to ex-smokers, current smokers are 19 percent more likely to take time off work, while ex-smokers are 14 percent more like to be absent than never smokers.

‘The results of this systematic review imply that quitting smoking may reduce absenteeism and result in substantial cost-savings for employers,’ the authors said.

Source: Addiction

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