It's no secret that cigarettes are bad for your health, but they can be bad for your boss too.

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A study published by Ohio State University found that one smoking worker can cost an employer $5,800 per year. That's a lot of money, and it adds up if there's more than one smoker on the payroll.

Not surprisingly, most of the cost comes out of lost productivity during smoke breaks.

However, there isn't much an employer can do to solve the problem. State law protects employees from discrimination if they smoke, and eliminating smoke breaks could be a breeding ground for lawsuits, according to Gregg Salka with employment firm Fisher & Phillips in Murray Hill.

"Smoking on a break is no different than your typical employee who's on Facebook or who's tweeting away," Salka said. "It's basically not performing work while they're on company time."

Simply put for employers - if you're not going to ban web surfing and texting, then you shouldn't do away with smoke breaks.

"(Employers) could implement a smoking cessation program...or some other kind of wellness program," Salka continued.

He said the idea behind that approach is it encourages the entire office or building to live healthier, perhaps leading less employees outside every couple of hours.


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