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Smoking hurts wealth as well as health, study suggests

COLUMBUS, Ohio Maybe packs of cigarettes should come with a new warning:

"Smoking is hazardous to your wealth."

A new study suggests that typical non-smokers' net worth is roughly 50 percent higher than that of light smokers and about twice the level of that of heavy smokers.

And that wealth gap grows by about $410, or 4 percent, each year that a person continues to smoke, said Jay Zagorsky, author of the study and a research scientist at Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research.

Federal statistics on cigarette spending suggest that the wealth reductions are roughly equal to how much smokers spend on their habit.

"We don't have any direct proof, but taking the study results and the federal statistics together, it seems that the money smokers spend on cigarettes comes out of income that normally would be saved," Zagorsky said.

"It may be that smokers spend as much as others on everything else, and pay for smoking out of potential savings."

The study was published in the current issue of the journal Tobacco Control.

The study used data involving about 8,900 people who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which is funded primarily by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The NLSY is a nationally representative survey of people nationwide conducted by Ohio State's Center for Human Resource Research.

The people in this study were interviewed in 1985, 1992, 1994, and 1998 about a variety of issues, including smoking and wealth.

In this study, light smokers were defined as those who reported smoking less than a pack a day on average, while heavy smokers used more than a pack a day. Wealth included home values, cash savings, stocks, bonds, and auto values, among other assets. Outstanding debts were subtracted from that total.

The participants in this study were between 33 and 40 years old in 1998, the last year of this study, Zagorsky said.
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Contact: Jay Zagorsky
Zagorsky.1@osu.edu
Ohio State University
2-Feb-2005


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