Beyond A Resolution: A Smoke-Free Workplace Improves The Bottom Line

NEW ORLEANS – Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in Louisiana, causing nearly one-third of the state’s cancer deaths.

Louisiana ranks among the top among US states for the number of residents being diagnosed with lung cancer and number of deaths from lung cancer.

Dr. Marc R. Matrana, Medical Director of the Precision Cancer Therapies Program (PCTP) at Ochsner Cancer Institute, is hoping to turn those figures around.

While smoking is the largest risk for developing lung cancer, there are other risk factors in exposure to occupational hazards.

“I strongly encourage a smoke-free work environment,” said Matrana. “if individuals want to expose themselves to risk in a private environment that’s up to them, but shouldn’t endanger the health of others to second hand smoke.”

Stamping out cigarettes has been a long-standing effort at Ochsner – In 1939, Ochsner founder Dr. Alton Ochsner was one of the first to discover the link between tobacco use and lung cancer. He dedicated his life to educating the world on the dangerous effects of smoking. All Ochsner campuses are smoke-free.

Ochsner offers a smoking cessation program for patients for free. Each participant meets with a certified tobacco treatment specialist who develops an individualized plan.

For those who have already been diagnosed, Matrana said ongoing cancer trails at at Ochsner have shown success in helping patients with the disease.

“Research allows us to bring new innovate therapies to patients and offer them the very best of care. We have trials and therapies for patients in this region to improve their level of care,” Matrana said.

Unique cancer research and trials at Ochsner include genetic tumor sequencing, experimental treatments and therapy that uses the body’s own white blood cells to attack the cancer cells. Other treatments include pills rather than chemotherapy for the incurable disease.

“Some people get lung cancer who have never picked up a cigarette and and they simply have poor luck,” Matrana said. “However, smoking cessation programs have made a real difference. We give health insurance discounts for those who don't smoke and every little bit helps. Anything, policy-wise to help lower the rate of smoking, will have a downstream effect.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), providing a smoke-free work environment is good for a businesses’ bottom line, from lowering the risk of accidental injuries to lowering insurance costs.

Ways a smoke-free environment can help your business:

-Smoke-free businesses have negotiated for lower fire and property insurance premiums, with some businesses winning reductions of 25–30 percent.

-Going smoke-free reduces cleaning and maintenance costs.

-Going smoke-free reduces potential legal liability by nonsmokers harmed by secondhand smoke at work.

-Workers become healthier, and healthier workers miss less work, are more productive, and have lower health care costs. The American Productivity Audit, a national survey of over 29,000 workers, found that tobacco use was a leading cause of worker lost production time—greater than alcohol abuse or family emergencies.

-Quitting smoking, or even just cutting back, improves a worker’s productivity. One large company found that their employees who smoked had more hospital admissions (124 vs. 76 admissions per 1,000 workers) and a higher average insured payment for health care ($1,145 vs. $762) than their nonsmoking employees in an 11-month period.

Ways to implement a successful smoke-free environment:

-Make a business 100 percent smoke-free including in company vehicles.

-Offer help to workers who want to quit smoking with free literature or cessation programs at local hospitals.

-Offer free or reimbursed cessation programs onsite or through local providers.

-Offer prizes or incentives for employees who comply with the program.

-By Jenny Peterson, Associate News Editor, Biz New Orleans

Categories: Healthcare, Today’s Business News