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More than one in five employees in routine manual and service occupations in England, which includes the logistics sector, are smokers - a rate three times higher than other industries.

According to data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) the employee smoking inequality gap has grown by 5% over half a decade, with manual professionals falling behind national trends for smoking cessation.

The figures show that employees in this sector are 65% more likely to smoke, when compared to the average smoking rate in England.

The government has set a target of reducing the number of smokers to 5% of adults in England by 2030 and last month launched a world-first 'swap to stop' scheme, in which one in 5 of all smokers in England will be provided with a free vape starter kit to help them quit.

A recent trial by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the NHS Stop Smoking Service found a vape starter kit helped 42% of participants to quit within a month. A further 15% had quit after 12 weeks.

Smoking rates also vary geographically. In Manchester, Islington and Merton – the three worst-affected areas – people working in routine and manual roles are around three times more likely to smoke than the average person in England.

In all 20 areas with the highest smoking rates in such roles, the probability of these employees smoking is at least twice as high as the national average. There are just eight areas in England where routine and manual employees are less likely to smoke than the average person. In Sefton, the rate of smoking among these workers is around 8%.

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Dan Marchant, managing director of Vape Club, said: "We know that people quitting smoking need all the help they can get: it’s far from easy. And we know just how effective smoking cessation tools like vapes can be. It’s vital that everyone has the same access to support and nobody in society is left behind.

“Falling rates of smoking are rightly celebrated, but we can’t ignore the kind of inequality this data shows. HR departments in routine and manual sectors have to step up and address the issue, offering people greater support to quit smoking.

“Any success they might have won’t just benefit individuals. After all, ex-smokers are usually healthier people, physically and mentally, than smokers. That means fewer days off and greater focus on their roles, so the business wins as well.”

Bethany Smith, HR advisor at boiler suppliers and installers Heatable, which has helped its workforce cut down on smoking rates, said: "HR teams could help encourage smoking cessation by adopting a smoke-free policy in the workplace, this means smoking on-site, the parking area and doorways is prohibited. This simple step is very impactful and by making smoking that little bit more inconvenient, it can be a constant reminder to break the habit.

“We have also found that moral support has also been helpful and although this is likely more difficult to achieve in larger companies, we have found that casual conversations and offering support to smoking members of staff has had an impact.

“Supporting employees in adopting a healthy lifestyle shows that you care about their health and wellbeing, which itself improves morale and overall productivity.

"A healthy workforce performs far better and is also less likely to be absent due to illness and stress. Ultimately, this is an extremely easy and efficient way for the company to save money and time.“