Study Shows the Higher up the Career Ladder, More People Quit Smoking
Does a raise in your pay improve the odds you will quit smoking? One study suggests it will, at least among a specific segment of the population.
A new study from researchers at University of California, Davis published in the August issue of Annals of Epidemiology found that a 10% increase in wages led to about a 5% decrease in smoking rates among male workers or workers who have a high school education or less—typically those who hold low-wage jobs. The pay hike also improved their overall chances of quitting smoking from 17% to 20% over the course of the study.
For the study, the researchers examined data from 1999 to 2009 on wages, smoking status, and state of residence for full-time employees ages 21 to 65 years. They excluded people under 21 and people who had never smoked (since the goal of the study was to evaluate influences on quitting rather than starting smoking).
There is, however, a chicken-and-egg aspect to this study since some have suggested that higher rates of smoking reduce wages for individuals, says study senior author Paul Leigh, professor of public health sciences and researcher at the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at UC Davis. According to the professor, “We tried to look at it the other way around; it’s low wages that cause smoking.” The research team examined data from states with changes in minimum wage and unionization rates—which are often directly correlated with wages. Their analysis found that, overall, smoking prevalence was lower in states with higher minimum wages.
The team wasn’t able to determine a precise explanation for the relationship between smoking and wages however, but there are a few possibilities. “Wage increases make you feel better about yourself. If you have a better outlook on life, you think, ‘Ok, well maybe now’s the time to quit smoking,’” Leigh explained. “Generally if you raise wages, there’s less poverty—at least among people working—so people have less stress associated with poverty.”
Another theory put forth is that a reduction in stress can motivate someone to give up the habit, Leigh said. “I always tell my students, ‘If you’re a smoker, are you gonna quit during finals week? No. You’re going to wait until you feel more relaxed, more future-oriented, a little more satisfied with your life.’”
Leigh also suggested a more “esoteric economic’ argument: A smoker may think, “If I continue to smoke, I’ll have to miss more days of work.” If you earn a higher salary, you have more incentive to avoid missing work. “It’s the ‘if you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose’ argument,” Leigh says.
The reverse is also true: If you have something—higher pay—you have more to lose. Leigh also speculated that men are more prone to tie self-worth to pay, which means there’s an increased likelihood for risky behavior among men working low-paying jobs. So, the thinking goes, men making more money may be less likely to engage in dangerous activities like smoking
Of course, that is contradicted by all those tales of high-flying financiers snorting cocaine. Leigh says that the study focused on low-wage earners and that the relationship between income and risky behavior may not be strictly linear.
The study’s results are noteworthy however, as the debate over the minimum wage rages nationwide. “What we’re trying to point out is there’s a public health benefit associated with increasing the minimum wage,” Leigh said. Of course, conducting a study and then trying to spin the results to fit one’s ideological bent isn’t very scientific.
One thing is certain and that’s that regardless of your current income, if you are smoking a pack of cigarettes a day you can give yourself a huge raise by simply quitting. Your spendable income will increase by around $200 a month which amounts to giving yourself a $1.16 per hour raise.
If you want to quit but have struggled with it in the past, consider hypnotherapy and NLP. Both have been shown to be very effective methods of helping someone become a non-smoker. The Quit Smoking in 88 Minutes program can get you there without drugs or side effects. Call for a consultation or schedule an appointment today. You’ll look back on it as one of the best things you ever did for yourself.