Likelihood of Unemployed Smokers vs Nonsmokers Attaining Reemployment in a One-Year Observational Study | Lifestyle Behaviors | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network
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Original Investigation
May 2016

Likelihood of Unemployed Smokers vs Nonsmokers Attaining Reemployment in a One-Year Observational Study

Author Affiliations
  • 1Stanford Prevention Research Center, Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California
  • 2San Francisco Department of Veteran Affairs, San Francisco, California
  • 3Buckelew Programs Residential Support Services, San Rafael, California
JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(5):662-670. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.0772

Importance  Studies in the United States and Europe have found higher smoking prevalence among unemployed job seekers relative to employed workers. While consistent, the extant epidemiologic investigations of smoking and work status have been cross-sectional, leaving it underdetermined whether tobacco use is a cause or effect of unemployment.

Objective  To examine differences in reemployment by smoking status in a 12-month period.

Design, Setting, and Participants  An observational 2-group study was conducted from September 10, 2013, to August 15, 2015, in employment service settings in the San Francisco Bay Area (California). Participants were 131 daily smokers and 120 nonsmokers, all of whom were unemployed job seekers. Owing to the study’s observational design, a propensity score analysis was conducted using inverse probability weighting with trimmed observations. Including covariates of time out of work, age, education, race/ethnicity, and perceived health status as predictors of smoking status.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Reemployment at 12-month follow-up.

Results  Of the 251 study participants, 165 (65.7) were men, with a mean (SD) age of 48 (11) years; 96 participants were white (38.2%), 90 were black (35.9%), 24 were Hispanic (9.6%), 18 were Asian (7.2%), and 23 were multiracial or other race (9.2%); 78 had a college degree (31.1%), 99 were unstably housed (39.4%), 70 lacked reliable transportation (27.9%), 52 had a criminal history (20.7%), and 72 had received prior treatment for alcohol or drug use (28.7%). Smokers consumed a mean (SD) of 13.5 (8.2) cigarettes per day at baseline. At 12-month follow-up (217 participants retained [86.5%]), 60 of 108 nonsmokers (55.6%) were reemployed compared with 29 of 109 smokers (26.6%) (unadjusted risk difference, 0.29; 95% CI, 0.15-0.42). With 6% of analysis sample observations trimmed, the estimated risk difference indicated that nonsmokers were 30% (95% CI, 12%-48%) more likely on average to be reemployed at 1 year relative to smokers. Results of a sensitivity analysis with additional covariates of sex, stable housing, reliable transportation, criminal history, and prior treatment for alcohol or drug use (25.3% of observations trimmed) reduced the difference in employment attributed to smoking status to 24% (95% CI, 7%-39%), which was still a significant difference. Among those reemployed at 1 year, the average hourly wage for smokers was significantly lower (mean [SD], $15.10 [$4.68]) than for nonsmokers (mean [SD], $20.27 [$10.54]; F(1,86) = 6.50, P = .01).

Conclusions and Relevance  To our knowledge, this is the first study to prospectively track reemployment success by smoking status. Smokers had a lower likelihood of reemployment at 1 year and were paid significantly less than nonsmokers when reemployed. Treatment of tobacco use in unemployment service settings is worth testing for increasing reemployment success and financial well-being.