TYLER (KYTX) - It pays to hire on a healthy workforce. New research shows smokers cost their employers nearly $6,000 more per year than their non-smoking co-workers.
"It's just gotten tougher." says Corner Bakery Cafe owner Robert Owens.
He remembers a different time in the restaurant industry.
"You'd go inside mom and pops and there'd be people smoking in the kitchen."
Now, you must be at least 20 feet away from restaurant doors and windows to smoke in Tyler.
Still, workers are lighting up, and it's costing employers thousands of dollars every year.
A study in Tobacco Control shows the biggest reason is because smokers take more breaks.
"If it's a demand situation where they've got to go smoke, well, it's going to be an unpaid."
But, unpaid or not, more breaks mean less job productivity, costing employers more than $3,000 each year.
Owens says those breaks can also cause tension among the non-smoking employees.
"It's a hardship on everybody else to cover that area. So, it's a tough deal to work as a team if somebody's got to stop and go smoke."
The second largest source of cost comes from excess health care expenses- more than $2,000 per year.
"I've had part of our work family that's come up with an illness or you know, certain things happen to them because of smoking." says Owens.
That's why he offers incentives to get his employees to kick the habit.
"I've had one employee who I gave $100 to if she didn't smoke for three months. So, we come up with things to try to help and try to encourage without embarrassing."
He says his employees are like family and he wants them in for the long haul.
Another factor that added to increased employer costs was missed days of work. According to the research, smokers take about two and a half more sick days each year than non-smokers.
According to the CDC, smoking is the leading cause of preventable illness and death. 440,000 people die from it every year.