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Study says smokers make less money; have tougher time finding a job

A study from Stanford University scientists is suggesting that smokers not only have a much tougher time finding reemployment, but they also make about $5 less per hour on average.  In what is being defined as a year-long longitudinal study, the team headed by lead author and associate professor of medicine Judith Prochaska found that only 27 percent of smoking participants found a new job after the one-year timeframe.  Meanwhile, 56 percent of nonsmokers landed a new gig and at a comparatively higher pay grade.

The research began by following the job searching activities of 120 unemployed non-smokers and 131 unemployed smokers.  Each participant was interviewed by the research team before the study began, at the 6-month milestone, and at the end of the 12-month period.  In addition to asking very pointed survey questions, the scientists also conducted breath tests for carbon monoxide levels to continuously monitor whether each participant was smoking and to what degree of regularity.

Overview of the Stanford study

The participants were selected randomly and had a wide range of personal characteristics.  However, some trends began to appear in each group.  For example, smokers tended to be younger, less educated, and in poorer physical health.  So, according to Prochaska, the results of the study suggesting that smokers have a more difficult time getting a job than non-smokers cannot be directly attributed to tobacco use.


After all, the age, health, and education variances might be reasons that employers were less likely to hire members the smoking group.  The scientists then decided to consider several other possible determining factors, including length of unemployment, criminal histories, and race.

However, even after taking into consideration these additional varying factors, the research still suggests that the reemployment rate of the non-smoking group was 24 percent higher than the reemployment rate of the smokers.  The study entitled Likelihood of Unemployed Smokers vs Nonsmokers Attaining Reemployment in a One-Year Observational Study is readily available for review on the NCBI website. 

The chicken or the egg

Do smokers have a tougher time finding a job because they are less healthy and less educated?  Or do they smoke because they tend to hang out with people who also smoke – who are less healthy and less educated?  It’s a type of Catch-22?  Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?   

Prochaska and her team want to find out.  So, they are in the midst of conducting a follow-up study.  This time around, they are splitting the smoking participants into two distinct groups.  One group will be receiving therapy and treatment for smoking addiction.  The others will be given information to read on their own about the benefits of quitting smoking and access to a self-help line.  The Stanford team hypothesizes that the smokers receiving professional treatment will have a significantly easier time finding new jobs than those who don’t. 

Regardless of the reasons why, it’s still very interesting to learn that smokers tend to make about $10,400 less per year than non-smokers.  And that’s only after the smokers finally land a job at $5 an hour less. 


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