Cigarettes hurt wealth, study finds
Warning: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your wealth.
That's the claim of Jay Zagorsky, an economist at Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research.
Zagorsky found that the net worth of nonsmokers was roughly 50 percent higher than that of light smokers and about double the wealth of heavy puffers. He also found that the wealth gap grows by about $410 for each year that a person continues to smoke - changes that could not be explained away by differences in education levels, income, or other factors associated with wealth accumulation.
The researcher analyzed data collected from nearly 9,000 individuals who were interviewed in 1985, 1992, 1994 and 1998 on a variety of issues, including smoking and wealth, as part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
The participants in this study were between 33 and 40 years old in 1998, the last year they were interviewed, Zagorsky said. By that time in their lives, they had not accumulated much wealth: The average net worth of all participants in 1998 was about $50,000. Admittedly, that's not much. But even at this early stage of their working lives, the nonsmokers were already beginning to pull away from the smokers in the race to build a nest egg.
Zagorsky said federal statistics on cigarette spending revealed an interesting pattern: The wealth reductions were roughly equal to how much smokers spend on their habit, suggesting that smokers buy cigarettes with money they would otherwise save.
In other words, a small but significant portion of their wealth goes up in smoke each year.
His advice for smokers who want to increase their fortunes as well as improve their health: "Stop smoking."