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Out-Of-Work Smokers Less Likely To Find A Job

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Health experts have warned time and again about the dangers of smoking. Now, a new study reveals yet another reason for smokers to quit the habit.

In a new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine on April 11, Judith Prochaska, from Stanford University, and colleagues revealed that compared with non-smoking job seekers, unemployed smokers have a harder time finding work. Once they manage to get employed, they are also more likely to earn less than their counterparts who do not smoke.

Prochaska and colleagues followed 251 job hunters in the San Francisco area to determine if their smoking status can affect their likelihood of getting employed.

After a year, the researchers found that the smokers were 24 percent less likely to find a job compared with the nonsmokers even after the researchers controlled other variables that might influence employment such as criminal history, age, health status and education.

In addition, 60 of the 108 nonsmokers managed to find a job while only 29 of of 109 smokers were re-employed.

"We designed this study's analyses so that the smokers and nonsmokers were as similar as possible in terms of the information we had on their employment records and prospects for employment at baseline," Prochaska said.

Those who were able to land a job after 12 months were also found to earn on average $5 less per hour compared with the nonsmokers. Smokers earn about $15.10 per hour while the nonsmokers earn $20.27 per hour.

The researchers said it is understandable why employers seem to avoid hiring people who smoke. Use of tobacco, for instance, is linked with greater health care costs, absenteeism and unproductive time.

"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," the researchers said.

Prochaska and colleagues noted other characteristics attributed to smokers that prevent them from getting a job. They cited that smokers likely had prior treatment for alcohol and drug problems, unreliable transportation, unstable housing and criminal history.

The findings show that besides being a risk factor for a range of diseases such as lung problems and cancer, smoking can also hurt a person's financial well-being.

Despite declining prevalence, smoking still kills half a million people in the United States per year and costs the country more than $300 billion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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