How much does it cost to employ smokers?

how much does it cost to employ smokers





How much does it cost to employ smokers? No matter how you break it down, smoking costs money to the smokers, the government/insurance companies and their employers.

Every six months or so one of my co-workers ends up looking at the amount of people in the smoking pit and rants about how much money we waste paying people to smoke. Then he always ends up telling a story about a guy he used to work with at another company.  

The story is about a guy who was approaching retirement. This guy wrote his superiors a letter on how over the course of his career he has seen many people take 5-minute smoke breaks X times a day. Apparently he calculated the amount of time these people took to smoke throughout the day and totaled it over his career. In his letter he mentioned his retirement and asked if he could take his smoking time now in one big chunk…seriously. 

I’m impressed with his ambition! I’m sure his idea failed miserably but it may have drawn some attention towards smokers and their breaks at that company.

I guess his total added up to over a couple years, but I’m sure that total has increased over the years when my co-worker starts telling it again. I recently heard this story again and as a non-smoker I started to wonder just how much time could be spent smoking throughout the day. More importantly being someone with an eye for reducing costs and a thirst for statistics I wanted to find out more information:

  1. How many employees the average company needed to have before they were paying someone full time to just smoke.
  2. How much does it cost to employ smokers.

I assumed Stats Canada would have some kind of information on smokers and somewhere I’d be able to find some information on time spent smoking in a day. So off to the internet I went!

Here’s what I could find

Stats Canada certainly does have lots of information on smokers. They have stats on people who are 12 and over and reported to be a smoker broken down by age and gender, they also have percentages broken down by provinces for each gender. For my purposes I’ll use the mixed percentage of 18.1% for 2014.

Now while I wasn’t able to find any data specifically for Canada on cigarettes smoked in a day I did find some data from the United States of America. Currently if you’re reading this before the 2016 election, they’re much like us so it’s probably close enough. After the 2016 election we can’t be too certain…

I’ve come across two surveys with similar information. The first being this info-graphic. 

The second is this graph from the Health Information National Trends Survey from the National Cancer Institute.

Cost to employ smokers

Based on these two chunks of data I’d say it’s pretty reasonable for us to assume the average smoker in Canada would smoke about 20 cigarettes per day.

Now since I don’t smoke I can’t just time how long it takes to burn through a cigarette I had to do some research.  From several different sources including some smokers I work with it seems like 6 minutes is the average time to smoke a cigarette. 



Now how much does it cost to employ smokers?

Assuming everyone averages 8 hours a sleep per night. We can safely distribute the 20 cigarettes a day over the 16 hours the average person is awake. This gives us 10 cigarettes per work day at 60 minutes per day!. 50 cigarettes a week or 5 hours. Based on a 50 week work year we’re looking at 250 HOURS each year per smoker!

So if the company you work for employs at least 8 smokers then they’re employing a person FULLTIME to do nothing but smoke.  Now since 18.1% of people in Canada smoke, that means an employer only needs to employ 44.2 people before they’re almost certainly employing someone to smoke full time.

To take this a little bit further Canada has 18,116,700 people currently employed. These people have an average hourly wage of $25.80. So if 18.1% of them smoke 10 cigarettes per day at work then Canadian employers are paying $21,150,341,415 each year for people to smoke. If you didn’t notice that was 21 BILLION, again that’s a B for billion.

Possible variations

I know many of you are probably thinking that people get paid breaks. Yes, many of them do, usually maybe 30 mins of an unpaid lunch and two 10-15 paid breaks.  These often aren’t used solely for smoking. Also almost everywhere in Canada you need to be 10 meters away from the building to be able to smoke. Not that it happens, but they have to go outside which would be additional time to get to and from the smoking locations.  So let’s say it evens out for simplicity!

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