‘Make It Your Business’

By Deborah Zysman
Wednesday - March 18, 2009
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By Deborah Zysman
Executive Director for Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii

Running a business - and keeping costs down - takes creativity and planning. As the director of the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, a small, local nonprofit, I know this firsthand. Like you, I am highly concerned about the rising cost of employee healthcare and its impact on our bottom line.

I know many other business leaders share my concerns. During this economic crisis, savvy businesses are seizing the opportunity to strengthen their foundation and invest in people and systems required to support their business over the long term.

One of the best ways to invest in your employees is with work-site wellness programs.


Businesses nationwide and here in Hawaii have found that helping employees quit smoking provides a great return on investment. The cost of tobacco use falls mainly on businesses. On average, smokers cost employers 40 percent more than non-smokers for healthcare benefits, and twice as much for drug plans. Additionally, productivity losses due to smoking include: 26 percent higher than average work absences and smoking breaks that equal an average of 18 days per year. Altogether, each tobacco user costs employers more than $3,383 per year compared with a non-smoker. Healthy and happy employees are good for business and reduce health-care costs.

For these reasons, the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii has just launched a new initiative called “Make It Your Business” to help businesses create a tobacco-free work force and save costs. We are now offering a step-by-step toolkit, technical assistance and many other resources to help employers create a healthier workplace. Together we can build partnerships and collaborations to help smokers quit, create healthier businesses and communities, and ultimately save lives and money.

Immediate past president Hye-ryeon Lee, Tracie Yoshimoto from Tobacco-Free Big Island, and Deborah Zysman

More and more employees are trying to quit smoking, and employers can help. To get involved in the Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii, call us at 946-6851 x203 or go to our Make it Your Business website at www.MIYB.org.

Last year, more than 60 percent of smokers in Hawaii attempted to quit. Smokers are more successful at quitting if they have assistance such as medication and counseling. Employers can help their employees quit smoking by providing cessation treatment in their health benefits package, starting worksite wellness programs and just by informing employees about community services available.

The Coalition for a Tobacco-Free Hawaii is a community of people and businesses united by a shared vision to build a healthier Hawaii for all to live, work and play. We are alarmed that each year more than 1,200 people still die of smoking-related illnesses in Hawaii. Tobacco use is a huge burden on businesses and our health care system. Annually, almost a half billion dollars is spent in Hawaii on healthcare and lost productivity due to tobacco use.

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