Do smokers make more money?

I talked about men possibly preferring women who make less money than they do, and if your weight affects how much you earn.

But how about smoking?


From Barking up the wrong tree, I bring you the answer:


Smoking does not make you more money.

Non-smokers make 15% – 40% more.

The researchers’ primary interest was tracking wages after respondents started their first jobs, and they found a clear correlation between wage growth and smoking.

Munasinghe and Sicherman found a 4.7 percent gap (after controlling for a range of family and individual characteristics) between smokers’ and nonsmokers’ first wages (what people were paid at their first full-time job).

Though this result was consistent with many previous findings that smokers earn less than nonsmokers, earlier studies didn’t take wage dynamics into account.

Because Munasinghe and Sicherman did consider wage dynamics, their results were more definitive: over the first decade of employment, the difference in wages increased dramatically — nonsmokers’ wages grew to be anywhere from 15 to 40 percent higher than those of smokers. The far-reaching NLSY data allowed the researchers to eliminate variables other than smoking — including sex, age, race, health, schooling, cognitive ability, religion and neighborhood income — that might correlate with the wage changes they observed.

Source: Science Daily


I’m not by the general findings, but that 15% – 40% increase in wages if you don’t smoke does surprise me somewhat.

I had no idea the gap was so big. Even 15% is a lot of money.

If you smoke and make $20,000 a year and your non-smoking colleague pulls in $23,000 – $28,000 in contrast.

Then when you figure in bonuses come as percentages of our salary (2%, 3%, 5%), the gap just continues to widen with each passing year.

I think a lot of it has to do with the following factors:

  • We’ve become a NON-smoking society (unlike Mad Men times). No wonder vaping (with those portable vaporizers like now is a big hit!
  • We are all aware that smoking is bad so we may consider smokers to be irrational
  • Smoking is generally not linked to being healthy and we like to follow fit leaders
  • At work, smokers seem to take more breaks* every hour or so = 12.5% – 25% loss in productivity
  • Heavy 5-pack-a-day smokers have a strong smell about them** which makes people avoid them
  • Smokers seem more stressed and under pressure***
  • It’s a more visible addiction, and it isn’t a good image****
*This may not be entirely true because I know a lot of non-smokers who take tons of coffee breaks or long lunches, but it sure seems like smokers go every once an hour, for 15 minutes. That’s a 25% loss in productivity for the company (15 minutes / 60 minutes or 1 hour).
But I also know smokers who are conscious of this and they PURPOSELY work like mad for 45 minutes to get those 15 minutes off.
**Sorry smokers. 🙁 It’s true. I’m highly sensitive to any kind of smoke and the smell knocks me back and makes me want to avoid working or being with heavy smokers.
***I know a lot of people who are stress smokers.
Some people eat when they’re stressed, others need a cigarette. They always seem so anxious to get their next nicotine puff, putting their coats on and rushing out the door.
****Addictions make people shy away.
It’s essentially an uncontrollable behaviour, and people don’t want to be with people who can’t control themselves. Although, if you tell someone you’re addicted to chocolate, working or even shopping, you won’t get as negative of a reaction as someone who says they’re addicted to cigarettes.

What do you think the other factors might be?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.