Between excess healthcare costs and lost productivity, employers lose about $8,000 annually per employee who smokes versus non-smokers. That adds up quickly. Helping people quit using tobacco is just smart business — for employers and health plans. But, you’ve got to reach them, help them quit, and measure the impact. How smart is your cessation program?
Why is it so difficult to quit using tobacco and nicotine products?
According to the CDC, 68% of smokers say they want to quit, and more than half have made at least one quit attempt in the past year. However, fewer than 1 in 10 successfully stop. Why?
Nicotine, found in all tobacco products, is a highly addictive substance. Smoking cigarettes is the most rapid nicotine delivery method, reaching the brain within 10 seconds. Over time, the brain becomes tolerant, requiring more nicotine to maintain normal brain functioning. The effects of nicotine results in positive, although short-lived psychological effects of pleasure, arousal, and improved mood. As this relief wears off, nicotine increases anxiety. Thus, nicotine addiction is sustained by positive effects combined with continued use to avoid the unpleasant effects of nicotine withdrawal. This cycle of trying to maintain the positive effects while avoiding the undesirable effects makes it so difficult to quit smoking.
Struggling to quit is more than just chemistry.
It takes an average of 7-10 quit attempts before finding the right mix of skills, support, and internal motivation to succeed. Many people feel misunderstood about their struggles with trying to quit and report feeling shame, guilt, and embarrassment for their smoking behavior. The stigma associated with smoking can permeate nearly every aspect of their lives, including relationships with family, friends, employers, and healthcare providers.
A coach might be the only person in the participant’s life who isn’t judging or shaming them for their nicotine habit. Instead of placing guilt, coaches work with participants to learn more about what nicotine gives to them and how that lines up with their values and goals.
One of the most powerful keys to building a relationship is to listen without judgment. This is unconditional positive regard. Unconditional positive regard involves conveying to a person that they’re accepted and valued without judgment. This includes creating an accepting environment in which the participant can choose to learn first, reduce, quit on their timeline, and have a “safe place” to come back to if they lapse or relapse.
Coaches make quitting possible.
Each quit journey is unique, and one size doesn’t fit all. For someone weighing the benefits of quitting against the effort to quit, coaches can serve as a sounding board. In addition, coaches help find strong motivators, understand their challenges and identify possible strategies to move forward to help them gain greater confidence. For someone preparing to quit, coaches can help them brainstorm small actionable steps to take before jumping into a full quit, discuss challenging situations that may be problematic when trying to quit, and help them develop strategies to cope with triggers and withdrawals. There is a high risk for lapse and relapse when someone has successfully quit. If a user slips, a coach can help them explore the challenging situation and solutions unique to them to do it differently next time.
Being paired with someone who provides a safe space for them to talk about real-life problems getting in the way of their success gives people who want to quit a better chance of creating success.
Quitting isn’t easy. Finding a caring and kind-hearted coach to guide a person’s quit journey forms a genuine bond that only strengthens over time as trust develops. This bond gives participants in cessation programs better odds of succeeding – and underscores why employers should choose cessation programs that include personal coaching to help their employees get off nicotine.
Photo: Liudmila Chernetska, Getty Images