Smoking impacts your life in so many ways, including the old standby that we have always heard: it impacts your health. However, there is new evidence out there that smokers face even more problems. People who smoke have a harder time finding jobs and they earn less than nonsmokers do when they work, a new study suggests.
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"When we studied a sample of 251 [unemployed] job seekers over a 12-month period, smokers relative to nonsmokers were at a serious disadvantage for finding re-employment," said study lead author Judith Prochaska.
"When they did secure jobs, they were paid significantly less than nonsmokers," said Prochaska, an associate professor with Stanford University's Prevention Research Center in California.
The difference was $5 an hour or $8,300 more annually.
It is unclear why this is happening, and there are some factors that explain the difference. Smoking, for instance, means that people may be out of work more often, have higher health care costs, and have more down time.
In the past, there have been studies that linked smoking to unemployment as well, but this is the first study to follow those people.
The study followed 251 people, 131 of which were daily smokers and 120 nonsmokers, who were looking for employment from 2013 to 2015. Their average age was 48, two-thirds were men, and 38% were white.
In that year, researchers found that 56% of the nonsmokers got jobs while only 27% of the smokers did. Among those who were hired, smokers average $15.10 an hour compared to $20.27 for nonsmokers.
The research can't establish a cause-and-effect relationship, but they did account for things like age, education, and race, which makes it look even worse for smokers.
Prochaska said the smokers may hurt their own chances. "Smokers in our sample tended to prioritize spending on cigarettes rather than costs that would aid in their job search, such as transportation, mobile phone, new clothing and grooming," Prochaska said.
Some people said that smokers may have more stress, which is what drives them to cigarettes and impacts their job prospects. But that isn't so, according to Prochaska. "Smokers are not inherently more stressed. Rather they experience more stress due to the effects of nicotine withdrawal," Prochaska said.
"The power of nicotine addiction should not be ignored. If you are craving that next cigarette and unable to focus on the questions on hand, that will most certainly place you at a disadvantage in the job interview process," she said.
Prochaska said that she heard of hiring managers who didn't hire people who smelled of tobacco because it could hurt their industry.
More than 20 states allow employers to not hire someone simply because they smoke. Some will ask about smoking, while others will test urine for traces of nicotine.
Ronald Bayer, co-chair of the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, disagrees with policies that discourage the hiring of smokers.
"It is unjustly coercive and a profound insult to human dignity to deny jobs to smokers," Bayer said. "Denying work to those already at the lower end of the social ladder should be seen as a form of discrimination."
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The study was initally reported in JAMA Internal Medicine Magazine.