Another reason to quit smoking: Your income

A Federal Reserve study finds that smokers earn considerably less than nonsmokers, for reasons that aren't entirely clear.

By Jonathan Berr Aug 1, 2013 1:44PM
Woman holding cigarette (© Michele Constantini/PhotoAlto/Getty Images)Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health. Now, a study by two Federal Reserve economists shows that it causes your earnings to shrink.

Researchers Julie Hotchkiss and Melinda Pitts, who work at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, found that smokers earn about 80% of what nonsmokers earn, according to NBC Interestingly, the amount someone smoked was irrelevant because both chain-smokers and weekend social smokers experienced similar wage gaps. Even someone who smokes just one cigarette a day will take a financial hit.

Hotchkiss and Pitts attribute about 60% of the wage difference to demographic factors, such as smokers tend to be less educated that nonsmokers and therefore earn less.

Although some might think smokers may be less productive because they need to take breaks to get their nicotine fix, that's not the case. Some of the difference is due to what the researchers called "unmeasured factors" such as "baseline employer tolerance."

Though the smokers interviewed by NBC didn't think their habits hurt them financially, ample evidence shows that it does. That's especially the case for poor states such as West Virginia, which has country's second-highest smoking rate.

A 2011 study by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the average smoker with a pack-and-a-half per day habit spent about $31,000 on cigarettes between 1980 and 2009. In 2009 alone, that smoker shelled out $2,121 to feed his nicotine addiction.

West Virginia has a per-capita income of $34,447, ranking 47th out of 50 states, which means many of the state's smokers are struggling to afford their habit.
Of course, the costs to society for smoking are enormous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that smoking-related health care costs were more than $95 billion a year between 2000 and 2004. About 400,000 people die annually because of their own cigarette smoking, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

If there's a bright side to this story, it's this: The study found that people who quit smoking make more money than people who never took up the habit.
Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Aug 1, 2013 2:07PM

no smokes for 4 years best thing ever did

Aug 1, 2013 2:52PM

Seems the same could be said about alcohol too. To each there own. Stop trying to control other people. Live and let live.

Aug 1, 2013 3:22PM
As an Accountant, I stopped (never say quit) about 9 years ago.  It wasn't that I was health conscious, it was because of the money.  I was putting down a $10 bill every third day and getting two packs of smokes and a dollar and change back.  I did individual hypnotism, not for everyone, you have to believe in it.  Cost me $400 for four sessions, although you stop after the first hour and half session (she even took the remaining cigs in the pack as well as the lighter).  As an added incentive, she told me to put a fish bowl on my chest of drawers and stick whatever money I spent on cigarettes into that bowl.  In a year and half, I had enough money to buy a new Toro Recycler Lawnmower and a set of Mizuno golf sticks.
Aug 1, 2013 3:05PM

It's not that smoking lowers your income. It's that poor people are more likely to be smokers.

Aug 1, 2013 3:57PM
Never trust a man without a vice.  Hitler didn't smoke , drink or eat meat.
Aug 1, 2013 2:51PM
Aug 1, 2013 3:33PM
but people who drink or chew tobacco or eat alot of unhealthy food are smart? every person has a addiction whether its food alcohol tobacco to extreme cleaning to hoarding, but you never read about that
Aug 1, 2013 4:00PM
I don't know how people can afford to smoke anymore ,its  over $5.00 a pack here in Florida,,
Aug 1, 2013 2:29PM
Well , there goes all the money from the cig manufactures to the special interest groups, not to mention the lost taxes.  Take one groups freedom and cause another group to become unemployed.  The USA is destined to fail and I fear sooner than later. 
Aug 1, 2013 4:00PM
More nonsense it's just a bad habit, some of the most educated people I know are smokers 
Aug 1, 2013 5:38PM
Surprise, surprise  -  Obama still smokes. Surprise, surprise, surprise  -  the "main stream media" no longer reports it!
Aug 1, 2013 5:08PM
I vape e-cigs. Quit smoking after 50 years. Saves about 80% and tastes great.
Aug 1, 2013 4:11PM

Here in Florida smoking 2 packs a day costs at least $5,000 a year, based on purchases of cartons--more expensive for individual packs.


There is no list of ingredients on a cigarette pack.  Therefore, it's impossible for a current or potential smoker to make an informed decision.  Yeah, I know you don't eat cigarettes, but you don't eat shampoo either and there's a list of ingredients on every shampoo bottle.


Finally, there is no such thing as a nonsmoking cigarette break.  If you work wih smokers who are abusing their breaks, forcing you to cover for them, file a complaint with your employer.

Aug 2, 2013 8:56AM

Stigma, Stigma, Stigma- Label, label,  label., judge, judge, judge, YOUR INCOME????RIDICULOUS.

This is what has been taught and learned.?? These people make less money than others. THESE ARE JUST A FEW EXAMPLES

People who don't frequently bathe, people that have bad breath and don't brush there teeth,, people that eat with there mouths open, people that pick there noses and eat the boogies, people that scratch there butts in public, people that clean there ears with paper clips in the office, people that wear old shoes, people that wear inappropriate clothing, people that have thick coke bottle glasses, people that are obese or are too skinny,, people that have mullets and rat tail haircuts, People that dye there hair black, people that wear cut off

 T- shirts,  people that wear old torn holey blue jeans, people that have body piercings, people that spit, hock lugies, people that pee and poop on the seat of a public restroom and then leave it, and don't wash there hands,, people that pick there teeth with thumb tacks, people with psoriasis, mersa, skin scabs, people that leave there wet laundry in the washer to sour and then wear there stinky clothes , people with old dilapidated cars, people with hair like Albert Einstein, people with a lazy eye, or cross eyed. people with toe nail fungus. people with un kept long dirty fingernails, people with pox marks and acne that pick there pimples,, people with long eyebrows, people that breath heavy through there noses. people that have cats, dirty litter boxes, cat piss smelling homes, people that spit when they speak, people with oversized birth marks, people who have flat asses, people with missing teeth, people that drink black coffee. This makes smoking a cigarette equivalent to all of the above? Right??? just disgusting??   People draw conclusions about others people's bad habits. EMPLOYERS RECOGNIZE THIESE DIRTY HABITS AS IGNORANCE AND PAY YOU LESS THEN YOUR CO-WORKERS. THIS IS AN EQUAL OPPURTUNITY EMPLOYER??? Lets start a new tax or a new fee on these people because we find these quirks disgusting and unsavory. GOVERNMENT WILL HIRE A PUBLIC POLICING FORCE TO TICKET THESE BAD UNEXCEPTABLE QUIRKS. Yeah that's the answer TAX EM!!!!! TAX EM AGAIN AND AGAIN!!!!!! HELP PAY FOR THE UNINSURED ILLEGAL MEXICAN CHILDREN IN OUR COUNTRY!     HELP US DEAR JESUS, TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER, TISK,TISK,TISK.   TIME FOR A SMOKE BREAK.

Aug 1, 2013 2:29PM
To al 2010- must be nice to be sooo much better then alot of people.Too bad your a small minded person who feels no compassion for others and feels a need to pass judgement, which is not your job but Gods. You are the kind of person that needs to get their head out of their a__.
Aug 2, 2013 12:31AM
On most if not every box of smoke there is a big warning sign - SMOKING KILLS. But i guess once you are an addict it doesn't matter or you just say something will do the job either way.  Smoking is expensive to maintain, so increase you income to support your habit, support your family, buy a new car, vacation or just do whatever you want with the extra money you earn.  Take a look  and .
Aug 1, 2013 2:46PM
Obummer smokes..Put his a$$ on food stamps!
Aug 1, 2013 6:06PM
And for those who don't want to quit because they'll gain weight due to nicotine suppression of NPY, an appetite-stimulating hormone.  Now 'No Thanks I'm Full' with leptin is able to effectively counter that hormonal imbalance.  Good luck quitting smokers!  It worked for me.
Aug 4, 2013 1:54PM

I quit smoking after 32 years.  I've been smoke free for nearly 5 years.  As far as being richer since I quit?  I've not noticed any financial increase. 


People who smoke and want to continue to smoke?  Go for it.  It's your choice and you do what you want to do and the rest of these a$$holes that are trying to control your life can go f*(k themselves.

Aug 4, 2013 7:09AM
Of course stupid studies like this that are paid for with taxpayer dollars cause your income to shrink. Poorly constructed study. This is a correlational study, NOT a causal one. You don't earn less because you smoke. Obviously, this is an anti-smoking campaign.
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