Leisure and hospitality industry workers who smoke are costing their employers £27.6m a year according to a study by the London School of Economics.
The figure, from the study for NHS Smokefree, was calculated by applying a formula to the number of sick days and cigarette breaks taken by smokers plus the potential cost of commercial fire damage attributable to smoking.
LSE professor Alistair McGuire, lead academic for the report, said the estimate didn`t include the indirect costs that could arise from the loss of image of a company where people were seen smoking outside, or the annoyance felt by non-smoking workers for not getting the same breaks as smokers.
“The formula reveals just how much of businesses’ bottom line is going up in smoke every year and how small changes could result in major savings," he said.
Dr Linda Bauld from the University of Bath and UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies said more employees should be encouraged to quit smoking by their employers.
"Research has shown that offering stop smoking support in the workplace is an effective way to help smokers to quit. What works best is a combination of support from a trained adviser, either in groups or one to one, and access to stop smoking medication."
For more information about NHS Stop Smoking Services employers should call 0800 731 6418.