A new study published on Monday in the JAMA Internal Medicine suggests that smokers have a harder time finding jobs than non-smokers, and even when they eventually get one, they are likely to earn less.

More Information about the Research

This study was conducted by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine, with assistance from San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs and the Buckelew Programs Residential Support Services, in Marin County. It was funded by State of California Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute and by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In a press release on the Stanford Medicine News Center, lead and senior author, Judith Prochaska, PhD, MPH, associate professor of medicine, said that previous research had shown a link between smoking and unemployment in the U.S. The next question, she said, was whether smoking was the “cause or result of unemployment.”

Prof. Prochaska and her team therefore sought to find answers to that question. Between 2013 and 2015, they surveyed 251 participants from the San Francisco area: 131 unemployed smokers and 120 unemployed non-smokers. The researchers used survey questions and breath-tests to identify the smokers and the non-smokers in the group.

Some of the factors analyzed in the study as research control variables were:

  • Gender
  • Race
  • Age
  • Level of education
  • Substance abuse
  • Criminal history of the participants.

Once the study begun, the researchers followed up with the participants 6 and 12 months later. At that point, Prochaska discovered that smokers were having a hard time finding employment.

According to the researchers’ report, only “27 percent” of smokers had found jobs as compared to “56 percent” of non-smokers in the 12-month period. To make things worse, the smokers earned an average of “$5 less per hour” than non-smokers. In quotes from NBC News, Prof. Prochaska said, “Averaging 32 hours per week, this is a deficit exceeding $8,300 annually” between non-smokers and smokers.

Researchers also found that “about 55%” of non-smokers were able to get re-employed with only “about 26%” of smokers managing the same feat. Such details contributed to the premise that employers weren’t as eager to hire smokers.

In the NBC News article, the researchers were quoted saying, “Tobacco use among employees is associated with greater health care costs, unproductive time, and absenteeism. An employee who smokes costs private employers in the United States an estimated excess cost (above that for a nonsmoking employee) of $5,816 per year.”

Prof. Prochaska also responded to a question by NBC in an email where she added that, “Anecdotally, from talking with hiring managers in the field, jobseekers who smell of tobacco place themselves at a great disadvantage for securing employment.”

Lessons to Draw from the Study

This new study adds an extra reason for smokers to reconsider their habit. As Prof. Prochaska points out in the press release, smoking not only harms an individual’s health, but also affects them financially “in terms of lower re-employment success and lower wages.”

Even though receiving a pay check at the end of the month is important, it is better to remember that a person’s health will play a crucial role in their ability to go to work. This study and many others can all conclude that smoking is bad for every area of our lives.