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Engaging in This Unhealthy Habit Makes It Significantly Harder to Land a Job, Research Finds

And it’s also linked to lower-paying jobs.

| 3 min read

And it’s also linked to lower-paying jobs.

Compared to non-smokers, unemployed smokers have a much more difficult time finding a job, according to a new study. Plus, when they do land a job, it tends to be lower-paying than those of their non-smoking counterparts.

In fact, the researchers found that unemployed nonsmokers in the San Francisco Bay Area were 30 percent more likely than smokers to have found a job within a year after entering the study.

"The health harms of smoking have been established for over 50 years, and now evidence is accumulating that smoking can hurt your success in the workforce and perhaps even lower your pay," lead author Judith Prochaska, of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, told Reuters Health.

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes is harmful for physical health, but this study, which is published in JAMA Internal Medicine, provides new evidence that the unhealthy habit can take a toll on financial wellbeing, as well.

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This isn’t the first study to explore the link between smoking and being employed, but the previous studies weren’t able to determine whether the smoking habit came before unemployment, or if people picked it up after losing their jobs.

For the research, the researchers followed 251 unemployed people between 2013 and 2015 — including 131 daily smokers and 120 nonsmokers.

After one year, 217 of the participants reported back about their employment statuses, and 56 percent of the nonsmokers had landed a job, compared to just 27 percent of smokers. Further, among all of the study volunteers who had found jobs, the smokers made about $5 less per hour than their smoke-free counterparts.

Importantly, the researchers accounted for a number of other factors that also influence employment, like housing, access to transportation, and criminal history, and there was still a 24 percent difference in employment status between the smokers and nonsmokers after one year.

The study itself didn’t delve into the causes for the link between smoking and unemployment, but the researchers had some insight.

"One thing we found that suggests an answer was that smokers in our sample tended to place a greater prioritization with regard to their discretionary spending on cigarettes than on aspects that would aid in their job-search,” explained Prochaska, “such as costs for transportation, mobile phone, new clothing, and grooming care."

Further, she added that evidence suggests that smokers take more sick days than non-smokers and are more likely to be distracted while at work.

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It’s also important to note that these findings might not hold true for everywhere else in the United States. She says smoking isn’t particularly popular in San Francisco, and the area also has smoke-free laws in the workplace, which could influence the effect.

"Across the U.S., however, the trend has been toward declining smoking rates and greater adoption of workplace smoke-free laws,” she said, “so these findings are likely to be more widely relevant over time."

Now, Prochaska and her team plan to conduct a randomized controlled trial in order to investigate whether a program that helps smokers quit could reduce the time it takes to land a job.

In response to Prochaska and her team’s research, Mitchell H. Katz, a graduate of both Harvard and Yale Universities and the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, published a note on JAMA Internal Medicine.

The title pretty much sums up the meat of the study’s message: “Employment Advice for Job-Seeking Smokers: Quit.”

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