By Gauri Mandal, Assistant Manager – Cessation, Salaam Bombay Foundation
The statutory warning, ‘Cigarette Smoking is Injurious to Health’ is all too familiar to most of us. Yet it has not been accepted with the seriousness that it merits. People still find reasons to smoke and chew tobacco in various forms. What is worse is that such people find ready excuses to convince others that what they are doing is not harmful because they are careful about other aspects of their lives. On this World No Tobacco Day let’s see how tobacco cessation can take place at the workplace.
Many of these people are at, or at the threshold of, the most productive phase of their lives, i.e. the career phase. They spend their most interactive hours at the workplace. Their habits are likely to influence others, especially if they are in leadership positions. Workplaces thus have a significant effect on the choices that people make about their lifestyles. This makes the workplace a very important venue that can transform society for the greater good.
This unique attribute of the workplace can be used to address employee health issues and restrain workers from the use of tobacco and tobacco products. Tobacco consumers can be encouraged to cut down their usage, and eventually quit altogether; those who are already tobacco-free can be encouraged to stay that way.
Employees must be made aware that the workplace is a major source of second-hand smoke exposure. They must be sensitised to the need for policies that prohibit the use of tobacco on the premises. This will help all workers avoid the dangers of unnecessary and undesirable exposure.
Information about the hazards of tobacco consumption, especially at the workplace, can be transmitted through the organisation’s house journals, intra-office memos, and snippets in the form of one-liners as office email signatures. These snippets can be updated from time-to-time. These tools will inform staff that a tobacco consumer is five times more likely to experience occupational injury than a non-user; offer pointers that can help in giving up the habit; and help in setting a target date by which the office can be deemed to be tobacco-free. Going a step further, workplaces can also support tobacco users by offering cessation services through professionals. Incentives in the form of recognition of employees who have managed to kick the habit successfully, and competitions between branches to see which office becomes tobacco-free at the earliest date, can provide effective and lively motivation to all staff. Moreover, it will help staff support by each other as a body and help each other to stay on target.
Such an initiative, while good for the employees, also offers benefits to the employer. Soon, the ambience of the office becomes one of cheerfulness and unity as employees motivate each other to reach their common target. The office will have a positive buzz, like a whiff of fresh air that will fill everyone with a sense of belonging and hope. Soon, employees will begin to show improved output, leading to increased overall productivity of the unit. Employers can derive comfort from the fact that there will be a significant reduction in occupational hazards, sick leave, medical expenses and compensation costs.
Gradually, with fewer stubs strewn around and the absence of tobacco stains on staircase walls, the overall cleanliness and hygiene of the workplace will improve. Employers will feel a sense of kinship with the staff and will automatically take more interest in the health and welfare of the employees.
And last, but not the least, a healthy workplace is a happy workplace. Fewer staff will be motivated to move to other jobs and the office soon gets projected as a workplace of choice. This will help employers attract better talent and consequently improve the bottom-line. The hidden subtext is that families become close-knit and happier; children get the right attention from their parents; and society at large gains from the improved quality of living of its productive population.
This shows how one important arena, the workplace, can have such a snowballing effect on so many aspects of the population, if the right moves are made at the right time.