Smokers Have A Harder Time Finding Jobs And Are Paid Less, According To New Study

Need yet another reason to quit smoking? A new study conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that smokers have a harder time finding jobs and earn less than nonsmokers. The research published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine shows that buying that daily pack of cigarettes not only takes a serious toll on your health and your wallet — but your paycheck as well.

Links between smoking and unemployment have been established in past studies conducted across America and the UK. While those who are unemployed are far more likely to smoke (some findings suggest that they are as much as twice as likely to smoke) it has been hard to determine whether the stress of unemployment drove them to pick up the habit or whether it is the act of smoking itself that contributes to the job seeker's lack of success. Lead author of the study Judith Prochaska, also an associate professor of medicine at Stanford, sought to pin down the cause of this correlation. "You don't know if smokers have a harder time finding work or if smokers are more likely to lose their jobs — or that when nonsmokers lose their jobs, they become stressed and start to smoke," she said in a press release.

To prove that smoking actually may prevent people from landing jobs, researchers examined two groups of unemployed people over a year-long period. Of the 131 unemployed smokers and 120 unemployed nonsmokers, nearly two-thirds were male, with a mean age of 48. The smoker group averaged at 13 cigarettes a day, and to establish groups both took a breath test for carbon monoxide levels in addition to completing a survey.

After 12 months, researchers found that of the 251 people surveyed, 56 percent of nonsmokers had found work, compared to the low 27 percent success rate of the smokers. As a whole, the smokers were 24 percent less likely to be reemployed than the nonsmokers. And not only did smoking seem to affect a person’s ability to land a job, but it also negatively correlated to their salary. Reemployed smokers earned an average of five dollars less per hour than the nonsmokers.

The exact reason for these negative correlations between smoking and employment eligibility as well as hourly wage is as of yet unknown. Due to lack of randomization, there may have been other important factors influencing employers over the year. Prochaska acknowledged that the smokers in the study were on average, younger, had more health problems, and less-educated than the group of nonsmokers. However, employers may also be thinking of the fiscal losses associated with hiring a smoker compared to a nonsmoking candidate.

It may cost the company an additional $5,816 to employ a smoker, in quantified lost time due to smoke breaks and extra health care costs, said one 2013 Ohio State University study. In 2014, the Center for Disease Control reported that while smoking is on the decline, 17 percent of all Americans still smoke and it continues to be the principle cause for preventable death and diseases. "The health harms of smoking have been established for decades, and our study here provides insight into the financial harms of smoking both in terms of lower re-employment success and lower wages," said Prochaska.

To further determine whether quitting smoking will ease the job hunt, a follow-up study is already underway. Unemployed smokers will receive personal coaching to help them quit, and if results show that those who successfully quit are faster to get hired, than it may finally prove that smoking alone can interfere with employment. So next time you think of lighting up, remember that it may cost more than your health.

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