Health

If You Smoke, Kiss Your Career Goodbye

Addiction can deprive you of advancement, prestige, much more

Smoking can wreak havoc on a person’s health. We all know this — the evidence and arguments have been clear and convincing for years.

But there are other ways smoking can hold people back in their both personal and professional lives, even if they don’t smoke in public or anywhere near the job.

Their denial of its devastating impacts, in other words, is just blowing smoke.

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A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine outlines some of the very real “life” costs. For every smoker still out there, these are worth real reflection.

1.) You’ll have a harder time finding a job or getting promoted if you smoke.
Dr. Judith J. Prochaska, the lead researcher from Stanford University, conducted a one-year study on 217 unemployed job seekers. Of them, nearly half smoked daily and the other half did not smoke. Her team found that 55.6 percent of nonsmokers got jobs, compared to just 26.6 percent of the smokers.

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“Job seekers who smell of tobacco place themselves at a great disadvantage for securing employment, though the extent to which this is a factor likely varies by job sector or industry,” Prochaska told LifeZette.

Smokers made about $8,300 annually less than nonsmokers.

Prochaska added that smokers tended to focus their discretionary spending more on cigarettes over expenses that would aid in getting a job, such as transportation costs, new clothing and grooming.

“The power of nicotine addiction should not be ignored in terms of influencing priorities. If you are craving that next cigarette and are unable to focus on the questions on hand, that will most certainly place you at a disadvantage in the job interview process.”

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Smoking can also hamper efforts to get promoted.

“Many employers rightly or wrongly view smoking as a marker for undesirable productivity,” Dr. Paul Leigh, a professor at University of California, Davis, told LifeZette. He said employers may not look favorably on an existing employee if they see that person taking numerous smoke breaks during the day.

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Dr. John Spangler, a tobacco epidemiology professor from Wake Forest University, noted that smokers have higher rates of hospital admissions and sick days — things that are not so appealing to most employers for all the obvious reasons.

“Smokers also tend to take more breaks than their nonsmoking co-workers, which not only impacts their productivity but also can generate resentment,” he told LifeZette.

2.) You’ll have less money all around.
Nonsmokers earn more money than people who light up, Prochaska’s study found. The hourly wage for smokers is about $5 less per hour on average — $15.10 per hour compared with $20.27 per hour for nonsmokers. It means that smokers made about $8,300 annually less than nonsmokers.

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“The health harms of smoking have been established for over 50 years, and now evidence is accumulating that smoking can hurt your success in the workforce and perhaps even lower your pay,” she said.

Speaking of money, Dr. Alice Geis, the director of integrated health care at Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare in Chicago, who leads smoking cessation groups, said that tobacco can have a big impact on a person’s budget and limits spending on things that could improve people’s overall health and mental well being.

3. You won’t be using the healthiest coping methods.
Smokers need to find other ways to cope with daily stresses, rather than lighting up, said Dr. Patricia A. Cavazos, an associate psychiatry professor from the Washington University School of Medicine.

“Folks turn to it and that can become a habit,” she said. “That’s what makes it so addictive. Some people find it’s an easy fix.”

She recommends exercising or socializing with friends instead of smoking. These are healthier ways of coping with issues that let people work out negative energy or better process their feelings.

Dr. J. Lee Westmaas, a strategic director at the American Cancer Society, noted that exercise can be difficult for smokers because of the strain on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Still, physical activity can prevent cancer and improve moods — both are musts for good health.

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4. You’ll create drama at home.
Smoking can cause stress when at home with loved ones, which can make it difficult to excel in other areas of life.

“In a household with other nonsmokers, smoking might be a source of stress or conflict, especially if others are concerned about the negative health effects on the smoker or if there are children who the nonsmoker might want to protect from secondhand smoke,” Westmaas said.

5. You’ll sap your spirituality.
Many smokers feel shame when friends or family detect the smell of tobacco on their clothes or person, said Spangler.

As a result, people could inadvertently be taking themselves away from their own spiritual growth.

“I have even heard from many smokers about the spiritual shame they feel at their churches when people notice the smell of tobacco on their clothes, or see them smoking in public,” he said. “It’s as if the message is: ‘You are sinful for smoking and don’t have enough faith to quit.’”

6. You’ll lower your positive outlook and self-esteem.
Lighting up daily — especially if you prefer not to but cannot seem to stop — can also lead to negative thinking.

“As is the case with most addictions, individuals who want to stop smoking but can’t may feel less control over their lives and …may have a more negative outlook on life,” Cavazos said.

Geis told LifeZette that it’s important to view tobacco addiction in the framework of a medical problem rather than a personal failing.

“People do want to quit smoking. Many just believe that they can’t,” Geis said. “And it is a very tough addiction to beat.”

“The lack of confidence in the ability to quit smoking can reinforce a psychological dynamic in which the connection between an individual’s actions and potential positive rewards is eroded,” Geis said. That connection is vital to health behavior change, attaining goals and feeling empowered.

For those who can quit and are no longer held back by their smoking — the effects can be life-altering.

“Quitting smoking can replace the powerlessness experienced with addiction to a highly dangerous substance with new confidence in their ability to reach other goals,” Geis added.

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