Experts are calling on textile care businesses to look at smoking cessation after recently released data from Public Health England (PHE) reveals that nearly one in four employees in routine manual and service occupations in England smoke tobacco – over three times more than those in office-based roles. 

The data comes after a report from a former Government health advisor found reversing trends in smoking cessation in the UK after lockdown. Recent figures predict there will be 600,000 more smokers than originally envisaged next year.

Smoking prevalence in manual roles means these employees are 50% more likely to smoke when compared to the average in England. The data insights, collated by Vape Club, highlight the need for targeted support to encourage smoking cessation as we move out of lockdown. 

While high rates of smoking present health concerns for those in manual labour roles, the number of smokers in routine manual and service occupations has dropped by approximately a third in the last decade. 

The government has set a target of reducing the number of smokers to 5% of adults in England by 2030. To achieve this, encouraging smoking cessation for those in manual labour positions will be key.

In a 2020 study, Quitting Smoking for Mental Health, ex-smokers were asked what their companies could have done to help them quit smoking. Responses included:

  • Smoking ban on premises – 30% of ex-smokers say that a ban on smoking on workplace premises would have been the greatest support on their quitting journey. Whether government-enforced nationwide or specific to workplaces, the effects are likely to be the same.
  • Funding programmes for smoking cessation tools – 32% say that greater support in funding for smoking cessation tools (such as nicotine replacement therapy and vaping) would have further encouraged smoking cessation.
  • Encourage nicotine replacement therapy in the workplace – 39% of ex-smokers say that allowing vaping in the workplace, or at least in a designated space, would have helped them to quit smoking. This was echoed by over a third of current smokers (34%), who believe they would be better equipped to quit if this was their workplace’s policy.

Lou Campbell, co-founder and programmes director at Mindfulness in the Workplace, says: 

“In the UK, the burden of wellbeing has fallen onto the shoulders of employers in recent years. This is something that is rarely acknowledged by businesses or the Government. Moderate to severe ill health (including mental health), low energy, and/or dysfunctional behaviours are all likely to reduce productivity, motivation and engagement in employees. 

“Providing targeted and intelligent wellbeing services to employees is absolutely a remedy to this problem and medium to large businesses are certainly offering at least some wellbeing services to their employees. A two-pronged approach works best. Confidential one-to-one sessions will benefit those who are in crisis or experiencing moderate to severe health issues. Awareness sessions can be delivered to the wider group of employees, focusing on how to maintain positive mental health, work-life balance, healthy habits and whole-person health.”