In the popular sitcom Friends, there is an episode entitled “The One Where Rachel Smokes”. In this episode, Rachel feels she is missing out on important conversations at work that occur while her colleagues are out on a smoke break. Fed up, Rachel chooses to take up smoking in order to be included.
While this is pretty drastic, and most people wouldn’t go to quite the same lengths as a fictional TV character to avoid being left out, there is one thing most non-smokers are missing out on: break time.
Extra Holidays for Non-Smokers
KCJ Training and Employment Solutions in Swindon (about 80 miles west of London) are now giving all non-smoking employees an additional four days off per year to make up the difference .
Managing director Don Bryden, who is a smoker himself, was inspired to enact the policy by a business in Japan who had a similar rule. By his calculations, an employee who takes three ten-minute smoke breaks every day ends up spending a total of sixteen days per year away from their desk.
“The way he sees it, it’s discriminating against non-smokers not to do this,” explained James Hackett, a representative for Mr. Bryden. “It’s not great when you’re at your desk and the smokers can get up and take a break and you just sat there.” 
Mr. Bryden is hoping that the policy will inspire employees to quit smoking, and will encourage other businesses to follow suit .
Smoking Leads to a Loss of Productivity
This is not only detrimental to the individual’s health but it also has a profound effect on their workplace productivity. Studies have found that when compared with those who have never smoked or who no longer smoke, current smokers incur the highest costs in lost productivity to American businesses at 4 430 dollars per year .
This loss is due in part to higher amounts of absenteeism (sick days, days off), but primarily comes from greater amounts of idle time while at work. Importantly, researchers have found that when an employee quits smoking, their productivity increases very quickly to the levels of employees who have never smoked before .
These findings are important because it proves to employers and business owners that there is a benefit to them in helping their employees kick the unhealthy habit. This includes providing support to those who are in the process of quitting.
The other key finding of the study was that loss of productivity actually increased while an employee was attempting to quit smoking. For this reason, it is important and necessary that employers offer support to ease the transition and therefore minimize productivity losses .
A Positive Result
So far, Bryden’s new policy has been seeing positive results. Out of his eleven employees, half are smokers. Since the new rules were put in place, one of these employees has permanently quit, and two others are trying .
This, however, does not mean that as soon as an employee quits smoking they will be rewarded with four extra days off. In order to receive the additional vacation time, an employee must give up smoking for an entire year .
Hackett says the company views this as “the evolution of smoking law”.
“Back in the day people could smoke at their desks, now they have to go outside, this is just the next step,” he explained. “We’re already looking for the next thing we can do.”
Five Ways to Help You Quit Smoking
Whether or not your workplace is going to give you an extra few vacation days, quitting smoking is one of the best choices you can make for your health. If you are attempting to butt-out, here are some things you can do to help:
- Nicotine replacement. Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement therapy. This could include a prescription nicotine nasal spray or inhaler, over-the-counter patches, gums, and lozenges, or a prescription anti-smoking medication like Zyban or Chantix .
- Avoid triggers. Identify when and where you usually like to have a cigarette. Is it at a bar or party? When you get stressed? Do you like to have a dart with your morning coffee? Whatever it is, do your best to avoid those situations or have a plan in place for how you will get through them without smoking .
- Stall. When you feel like you’re about to give in to a tobacco craving, tell yourself you have to wait at least ten minutes. During that time, find something to distract yourself until the craving passes .
- Move your body. Physical activity can not only distract you from your cravings, it can also help you to de-stress to reduce them. If you feel the urge to smoke come on, try doing a short burst of activity, like running up and down the stairs a few times, or doing some bodyweight squats or lunges. The sudden jolt of activity may just be enough to make a craving go away. Alternatively, you could try doing something else like sewing, journaling– even chores- anything to take the urge to smoke away .
- Get support. Reach out to a friend or family member who you know will help you stay accountable. If you have a friend who smokes, see if you can convince them to try and quit with you, or even join a support group (in-person or online) to encourage you in your journey so you don’t have to do it alone .
A Note on E-Cigarettes
Over the last few years, vaping, or e-cigarettes, have become a very popular alternative to smoking. There is still very little known about the long-term effects of these products, and so we do not recommend using them to quit smoking. More and more evidence is surfacing that suggests e-cigarettes could cause serious illness, or could result in a lung transplant. They might even be dangerous to your pets, and have the potential to explode, leaving you with severe burns or damaged teeth.
Butt-Out for Better Health
Of course, being rewarded with some extra days off from work is a wonderful perk, but the real benefit of quitting smoking is to yourself and your health. “Leaving the pack behind” will help you to feel better and more energized, and will prevent negative health consequences that will stop you from enjoying your life with your friends and family.