Smokers Stay Unemployed Longer Than Everyone Else, Study Says

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Smoking won't just turn your mouth into an airless wasteland. New research found that unemployed smokers have a lousy time finding work, and even make less than nonsmokers.

Researchers at Stanford University's School of Medicine conducted a study on unemployed people looking for jobs — both smokers and nonsmokers. After a year of job hunting, 56% of the 120 surveyed nonsmokers had found jobs. Only 27% of the 131 unemployed smokers could say the same.

What makes matters worse, when the 27% of unemployed smokers actually got jobs, the researchers said, they made, on average, $5 less per hour than nonsmokers. Smokers made an average of $15.10 per hour, while nonsmokers made $20.27 on average.

If the statistics are truly representative of the American workforce, those numbers are telling. But, according to the researchers, we still don't know why it worked out that way.

Source: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/Getty Images
Source: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/Getty Images

"You don't know if smokers have a harder time finding work or if smokers are more likely to lose their jobs — or that when nonsmokers lose their jobs, they become stressed and start to smoke," Judith Prochaska, associate professor of Medicine at Stanford and lead author of the study, said in a press release.

"The health harms of smoking have been established for decades," she said. "And our study here provides insight into the financial harms of smoking both in terms of lower re-employment success and lower wages."

The researchers claim to have tried to make the sample groups as similar as possible — time spent unemployed, race, criminal history — but even after controlling, the 12-month outcome still showed a rehiring gap of 24%.

Really though, the results shouldn't be surprising. Smokers cost employers an average of $5,816 extra annually — sometimes as much as $10,125. The results were based on what a 2013 study chalked up as absenteeism, reduced productivity because of nicotine addiction, smoke breaks and health care costs.

So if you needed another reason to kick the habit — besides the theory that cigarettes can hamper your Tinder success — your ability to get off your parents' couch is a pretty good one.