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It’s no secret that smoking is not only horrible for your health but also ridiculously expensive. It’s also true that indulging in the habit causes you to earn less money — about 20 percent less, says a study by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
It’s not that smokers are less productive. About 60 percent of the pay difference can be attributed to factors like having less education than nonsmokers. But another factor seems to be that people who smoke face a bias in the workplace. A press release about the study, conducted by economists Melinda Pitts and Julie Hotchkiss, explains:
Perhaps their most surprising finding is that the wage gap doesn’t vary by smoking intensity. “A person who smokes one cigarette per day faces a similar penalty as a person who smokes a pack a day,” explained Pitts, who directs the Atlanta Fed’s Center for Human Capital Studies. “Since smoking more cigarettes is known to result in greater health problems and work absences, the fact that the penalty doesn’t increase as smoking intensity increases suggests that the wage penalty is more related to a bias in the workplace against smokers than it is related to lower productivity among smokers,” she continued.
It’s a nasty habit that’s not getting cheaper. More states are increasing their tax on cigarettes. The Awl, in an annual survey, found a price of $14.50 for a pack of Marlboro Reds in New York City. The cheapest was just under $5 in Kentucky.
Need even more incentive to be smoke-free? The Federal Reserve study also says that people who quit smoking make more than smokers and also more than workers who never lit up at all.
Here are our cheap tips for snuffing out your addiction:
1. Start with a plan
A quit plan should cover everything from the reasons you’re quitting to the triggers that make you want to smoke. This list can be used as inspiration and reminder. The SmokeFree website offers many tips for compiling this list, including choosing a quit date and informing your friends and family about your plan.
2. Talk to an ex-smoker
Learning how someone else kicked the habit can help immensely. They can assist with not only advice but also support. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a whole campaign based on this idea. The real stories include people who have suffered heart attacks from smoking and also teens impacted by secondhand smoke.
Your doctor’s office more than likely has brochures filled with information. If you don’t feel like trekking there, SmokeFree has multiple booklets available. Topics range from the particular issues faced by smokers who are older than 50 to pregnant women who want to quit.
4. Call an expert
Help lines assist with answering your questions about smoking and quitting and also offer support.
The National Cancer Institute has (877) 44U-QUIT. Trained counselors are available for both English and Spanish speakers. It’s available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time. It’s free.
Each state has its own help line. All of them are linked through (800) QUIT-NOW. The services and times vary in each location.
5. Use apps and texts
QuitStart is a free smartphone app created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute. It will help you track your cravings, identify your triggers and remind you of quitting milestones. You can also upload personal inspiration to help you through the more challenging times.
SmokefreeTXT is another free option. The texting service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It will message you with advice and encouragement. The program can last from six to eight weeks and includes one to five texts daily. You can sign up online through the link or with your phone by texting the word “QUIT” to 47848.
6. Let medications help
Medications are available to help you with cravings and withdrawal symptoms when you’re quitting. They range from patches to gum to prescription medications. Your health insurance may cover smoking cessation products and medications. If not, see if your state’s smoking cessation program will make them available for free to you. Click here for more information on your options.
7. Exercise away cravings
People who go for a jog or engage in some other physical activity when they have a hankering for a smoke are more likely to be successful, says Men’s Health. Researchers think exercising not only distracts people from their vice but also may elevate their mood, lessening the desire to light up.
Have you quit smoking? Please share any tips with us on our Facebook page.