Tob Control 10:233-238 doi:10.1136/tc.10.3.233
  • Original article

Impact of smoking status on workplace absenteeism and productivity

  1. Michael T Halperna,
  2. Richard Shikiarb,
  3. Anne M Rentzb,
  4. Zeba M Khanc
  1. aCharles River Associates, Washington DC, USA, bMEDTAP International, Bethesda, Maryland and Seattle, Washington, USA, cGlaxoSmithKline, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  1. Dr Michael T Halpern, Charles River Associates, 1201 F Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington DC 20004, USAmhalpern{at}
  • Received 5 January 2001
  • Revised 8 May 2001
  • Accepted 14 May 2001


OBJECTIVES To: evaluate the impact of smoking status on objective productivity and absenteeism measures; evaluate the impact of smoking status on subjective measures of productivity; and assess the correlation between subjective and objective productivity measures.

DESIGN Prospective cohort study in a workplace environment.

SUBJECTS Approximately 300 employees (100 each of former, current, and never smokers) at a reservation office of a large US airline.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES Objective productivity and absenteeism data were supplied by the employer. Subjective assessments of productivity were collected using a self report instrument, the Health and Work Questionnaire (HWQ).

RESULTS Current smokers had significantly greater absenteeism than did never smokers, with former smokers having intermediate values; among former smokers, absenteeism showed a significant decline with years following cessation. Former smokers showed an increase in seven of 10 objective productivity measures as compared to current smokers, with a mean increase of 4.5%. While objective productivity measures for former smokers decreased compared to measures for current smokers during the first year following cessation, values for former smokers were greater than those for current smokers by 1–4 years following cessation. Subjective assessments of “productivity evaluation by others” and “personal life satisfaction” showed significant trends with highest values for never smokers, lowest for current smokers, and intermediate for former smokers.

CONCLUSIONS Workplace productivity is increased and absenteeism is decreased among former smokers as compared to current smokers. Productivity among former smokers increases over time toward values seen among never smokers. Subjective measures of productivity provide indications of novel ways of productivity assessment that are sensitive to smoking status.


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