Smoking Hurts Employees on the Job — and Off It

We have reported frequently on the importance for companies — and wellness programs — to focus on smoking cessation.

In our piece “Why Help Your Employees Stop Smoking,” we wrote: “To tackle smoking as a health concern, organizations need to start with a strong understanding of its effects on their workforce. The Centers for Disease Control shared some powerful statistics on the prevalences of tobacco use on Americans:”

An estimated 40 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes.
“Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or one of every five deaths.”

Now a study in the Jama Internal Medicine journal provides additional reasons why people should stop smoking: It’s in their best personal financial interest.

The study, titled “Likelihood of Unemployed Smokers vs Nonsmokers Attaining Reemployment in a One-Year Observational Study,” concludes that “Smokers had a lower likelihood of reemployment at 1 year and were paid significantly less than nonsmokers when reemployed.”

In reporting on the study, The Guardian (UK) writes that “a team of scientists in California have found that unemployed non-smokers are not only 30% more likely than smokers to be in work after a year, but also earn on average an extra $5 (£3.50) an hour than those who light up.”

The piece continues: “The study involved 131 unemployed smokers and 120 unemployed non-smokers. Among their findings, the authors reported that smokers were younger, less educated and more likely to be unstably housed, in poorer health and to possess a criminal record than non-smokers. More than half of all participants had been unemployed for more than six months, while nearly 60% had left their last job because their contract ended, or they were laid off.”

Said Judith Prochaska at Stanford University, who led the study: “We have known about the harmful health effects of tobacco use, and we have know that for now about 50 years. But here is evidence to show the financial harms of tobacco use, both with success in the workplace – in terms of being rehired – and then also potentially in the differential in pay that smokers versus non-smokers receive.”

The bottom line: We know that stopping smoking can help employees and their companies in myriad ways. Now another point of interest for people to stop smoking includes a personal financial incentive.