By: Dr. David Gregg, Chief Medical Officer, StayWell

Imagine knowing that your daily habit might kill you but continuing to do it anyway. That’s what millions of Americans do when it comes to smoking cigarettes. Smoking leads the nation among causes of preventable disease and death, especially heart disease and cancer, accounting for approximately 1 of every 5 deaths each year.

Overall, the per capita rate of smoking is down for adults and teenagers, but 21 percent of adults still smoke, about 10% of high school seniors still smoke, and 90% of adult smokers report starting before age 18. The smoking habit comes at a high cost, not only to an individual, but for employers and society. Issues with disability, lost wages, decreased workplace performance and other indirect costs are leaving employers questioning what they can do to combat this pervasive issue. StayWell is addressing this problem with employers through our innovative smoking cessation program, which can include health education via mail or telephonic coaching.

StayWell conducted research in an ongoing effort to examine the effectiveness of our lifestyle management smoking cessation program. Self-reported health and productivity outcomes were collected from participants both prior to the program and again at follow-up 10 months later. The total sample was 967 program completers, 269 of whom chose the telephone-based health coaching program and 698 who chose the sequential mail-based program.

Analysis revealed minimal demographic differences between the participants in the two delivery methods, ensuring a valid comparison between the two, with less concern that the outcomes would be affected by age, gender, or other differences.

Key findings:

  • Cigarette Use – 30% of participants in the health coaching program and 14% of participants in the mail-based program were no longer smoking cigarettes at follow-up. Both groups also reduced the number of cigarettes smoked by over 20%.
  • Tobacco Related Outcomes – Cigarettes weren’t the only tobacco-related product that had a reduced use level after the study. For both groups, cigar and pipe use went down almost 10% and smokeless tobacco use went down almost 5%. Overall tobacco-use risk improved for 40% of health coaching participants and 24% of mail-based participants.
  • Workplace Performance Outcomes – Overall work performance increased with the use of StayWell’s smoking cessation program. Days missed decreased more than 25% and job productivity increased almost 14% for both groups.

The cigarette smoking quit rates in our study are similar to or higher than results from other smoking cessation programs. Our findings were consistent with other research showing greater success among those who chose the person-to-person counseling rather than programs using print materials or brief contact. This study provided evidence that lifestyle management programs assist individuals in quitting smoking, reducing their level of smoking, improving other health outcomes and enhancing work performance.

For more on how health coaching can make a difference with your employees trying to quit smoking, please visit our website or contact a member of our team today.