Smokers who kick the habit with the help and support of others are more likely to stay smoke-free. In fact, according to New Jersey’s Atlantic Health hospital system, “Smokers are four times more likely to quit when involved in a comprehensive tobacco cessation program.” Many companies want to encourage smokers on their staff to quit. If your company has not instituted a smoking-cessation program for its employees, here are some ideas to get one started.

First, try to get an estimate of how many employees would be interested in attending such a program.
Do a poll of a representative section of employees in your location—10 percent of a large group, for example—and find out how many of them smoke, and of these, how many want to quit smoking and would attend such a program. Usually employers pay for the programs, but find out if the smokers would be willing to pay a small amount out-of-pocket, just in case that’s the only way to bring one in.

Go to the human resources department, or, if it is a small company, to the person who handles HR responsibilities. Find out if there are any plans in the works to bring in a smoking-cessation program. If not, ask if one can be brought in.

Bolster your argument with some statistics about the importance of employee health.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “During 2000 to 2004, cigarette smoking was estimated to be responsible for $193 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States ($96 billion in direct medical costs and approximately $97 billion in lost productivity).” Also, the Surgeon General reported in 2004 that “The evidence is sufficient to infer a causal relationship between smoking and diminished health status that may manifest as increased absenteeism from work and increased use of medical care services.”

Volunteer to get information on starting a program for the HR person.

Dig up information. The companies that provide health insurance services may offer or be able to recommend seminars for employees on quitting smoking. There are also companies that exist to provide smoking-cessation classes; two such are Nicotine Solutions and Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking. Present the information to your HR contact.

If your company won’t pick up the tab for any such classes, ask if you can start your own using company facilities, such as a meeting room, and a copier for handouts. If so, and the employees are willing to pay for the service, get an estimate from the professionals and find out how many people are interested. See if you can schedule an introductory class to get interested employees to sign up.

Another option is to call your local branch of the American Lung Association to find out about their Freedom from Smoking group clinics.

If the company will provide a meeting area and nothing else, and the employees won’t or can’t contribute, you can still start a stop-smoking group on your own. One option is to start a group of Nicotine Anonymous. Using a 12-step program similar to that in Alcoholics Anonymous, NA helps members cease using tobacco and nicotine products and develop a more enriching life. Or, if that still seems too formal, just schedule an open meeting for smokers who want to quit and smokers who have quit to support one another. It can be a forum to discuss the benefits of different methods and products designed to quit smoking. Regular meetings—once or twice a week—and frequent encouragement by one another during the other days will help everyone stay smoke-free.