Cigarette smoking is a significant risk factor for cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Hospital or clinic based smoking cessation programs are scarce and inaccessible to workers working in the field. To encourage and assist employees to quit smoking and thus improve their health; and to make the program accessible, a smoking cessation program was conducted in the workplace.
A survey was conducted to determine the number of smokers among Unocal employees and who were interested in joining the smoking cessation program. Enrollment to the program was on a voluntary basis. The program consisted of one-hour small group session/week for a total of 4 weeks. The program was conducted by the company's Health & Medical staff after proper training from hospital-based personnel conducting a similar program. The sessions focused on health effects of smoking, understanding and coping with urges/cravings; nutrition and fitness activities. Bupropion medications for a 4- week course were offered for free to employees who joined the program. To reinforce cessation efforts and to monitor the quit rate, monthly follow-ups were done either by telephone or group meetings.
Based on the survey conducted, there were a total of 105 (32.5%) smokers out of 323 employees. Out of the 105 smokers, 22 (21%) were interested to join the program. However, only 12 (55%) actually joined and completed the program. Six (50%) employees successfully stopped smoking for 6 months while the other 6 employees (50%) initially stopped but relapsed. Four (4) out of twelve (12) employees who joined the program availed of the pharmacotherapy (Bupropion). However, the medication was discontinued by all three since they felt they could manage the withdrawal symptoms even without it. Problems encountered by employees who relapsed were peer pressure and withdrawal symptoms. All employees who joined were followed up regularly for 6 months.
The quit rate of UPI's smoking cessation program is comparable with reported quit rates from hospital or clinic- based programs or may even be better at 6 months period. This could be due to accessibility and better support system for the employees. Other local companies are encouraged to offer a similar program for their employees.