Smoking is an expensive habit. Smokers die a decade sooner than nonsmokers and suffer from a variety of afflictions, such as lung cancer, at higher rates. Add in the cost of the cigarettes themselves, extra trips to the doctor and missed days of work, and the addiction is even more costly.
Now, a team of researchers lead by Stanford public health scholar Judith Prochaska, PhD, has identified still another cost to smoking. Among the unemployed, it’s harder for smokers to get a job. And when smokers do find work, they earn, on average, $5 an hour less than nonsmokers.
Although it’s been suspected for some time that smoking is a risk factor for unemployment, it wasn’t clear whether smoking actually caused unemployment. Prochaska and her colleagues are working to tease out the extent to which simply being recognized as a smoker impacts employment.
“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,” Prochaska told me for a press release.
Prochaska’s team surveyed 251 people looking for work, about half daily smokers and half nonsmokers. After a year, the team found that even after controlling for a long list of other variables, such as age, sex, and education, smokers were 24 percent less likely to have found a job than nonsmokers. The research appears today in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Prochaska has already started another study to find out if an intervention that helps smokers quit can improve their success at finding jobs. She and her team hope to enroll 360 smokers, and 60 have already enrolled.
Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area who are interested in participating in the study can call (415) 216-5853 for more information or go to this site.
Previously: Health policy advocates push for federal “Tobacco 21” law, The battle against big tobacco hits the classroom and Stanford study: Higher tobacco taxes associated with reduced alcohol consumption
Photo by Kruscha