With more data emerging showing vaping can lead to lung injuries and other adverse health issues, many employers have concerns about the potential cost of providing extended health-care benefits to employees who vape, says Julie Stich, vice-president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.
“We’re seeing more and more evidence coming forth about the dangers of vaping and . . . employers are taking note. If they’re looking to build, encourage and help their employees live healthier lives and have more personal well-being, [vaping] is something they will want to focus on.”
According to a 2022 report by Pivot Health Technologies Inc., employers are impacted in many ways when their employees vape, but the most immediate is in mental-health costs, as employees who vape are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression. It also found employee productivity drops, as workers who vape take more breaks to indulge their habit and are more likely to be absent due to health concerns and illnesses.
Indeed, the residual harmful effects of vaping may lead to other health issues that can drive up the costs of employer-sponsored benefits plans, says Stich, noting many organizations with wellness or prevention initiatives in place are looping in vaping cessation programs to encourage their employees to quit the habit.
Nowadays, she says, many employers view employee health and well-being through a holistic lens — including physical, mental and financial well-being — and it’s within this broad scope of wellness they’re able to merge vaping cessation programs into their well-being initiatives.
However, the shift to remote working has meant some organizations won’t be able to get ahead of the potential cost impact of vaping on their benefits plans, as employees can more easily hide the habit while working from home, says Stich.
“In some instances, there was another refocus on vaping because people were working remotely and . . . [could] choose to vape in their homes. This is something employers are closely examining and may need to address either as employees return to the workplace or continue working at home.”
In 2019, 44 per cent of Canadian employers had a formal vaping policy that was often aligned with their smoking policies, according to a survey by the IFEBP. By providing support programs and benefits that help employees cease vaping, employers send the message that they care about workers’ physical and mental health and are invested in providing the support and resources they need to live healthier lives, says Stich.