Tobacco Awareness

Last reviewed on 14/10/2013 14:14

Tobacco remains a major cause of ill-health and premature death in Scotland, causing skills and productivity losses among the workforce.

Employers can help improve Scotland's health record in this regard by promoting tobacco awareness and supporting employees to quit.

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Why smoking remains an important workplace issue

Tobacco remains the major preventable cause of ill health and premature death in Scotland, accounting for more than 13,500 smoking-related deaths each year (1). However, the prevalence of smoking varies greatly across the population, acknowledged by a range of studies, for example:

  • in the UK, one in three workers in manual occupation are smokers, compared with less than one in five in professional and managerial groups (2)
  • in Scotland 41% of men and 39% of women in semi routine and routine households are smokers compared with 17% and 16% in professional and managerial households (3)
  • in Scotland, among 16-24 year olds, 29% of women and 32% of men are smokers (4)
  • the highest prevalence is in the 25-34 year olds, with 39% of men and 35% of women smokers. This drops to 15% of men and 12% of women aged 75+. (3)
  • in Scotland, 51% of men and 45% of women in most deprived area quintiles smoke compared with 15% of men and 13% of women in least deprived areas (3).

As well as the health effects of smoking, the annual cost of employee smoking in Scotland is approximately £450m due to lost productivity, £40m due to absenteeism, and £4m as a result of fire damage (5).


  1. NHS Health Scotland/ASH Scotland (2004) Smoking Cessation Guidelines for Scotland 2004 update.
  2. UK National Statistics (2006) General Household Survey
  3. Scottish Executive (2005) Scottish Health Survey 2003
  4. Scottish Executive (2006) Towards a future without tobacco
  5. Parrot S, Godfrey C and Raw M, (2000) Costs of employee smoking in the workplace in Scotland, Tobacco Control:9 (2) pp 187-192


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The benefits of promoting smoking cessation at work

There are potential costs and savings to employers from encouraging and supporting employees to quit smoking using effective and evidence-based interventions.

Employers are not legally obliged to help employees to stop smoking, however, employers that do provide cessation support could reduce the risk of non-compliance with the law (Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2006), as well as taking advantage of the opportunity it offers to improve people’s health.

They will also benefit from reduced sickness absence and increased productivity. Health Improvement Programmes delivered through the workplace can make a major contribution to improving Scotland’s health and reducing health inequalities.


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How employers can help

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines introduced in 2007 recommend the following action employers should take to help employees stop smoking:

  • publicise smoking cessation interventions as outlined in the NICE guidance document
  • allow staff to attend smoking cessation services during working hours
  • develop a smoking cessation policy in collaboration with staff and their representatives as one element of an overall smoke free workplace policy.

Employees who wish to stop smoking should:

  • contact their local smoking cessation service via NHS Local Services (external site)
  • encourage employers to provide advice, guidance and support to help employees who want to stop smoking.

→ View NICE guidance on smoking at work (external site)


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Further information on smoking cessation and work

Health Scotland Publications Note: links are to pages on the Health Scotland website giving options to download these publications. They are also available to order from your local health board.


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