Smoking hurts wealth as well as health, study suggests

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.

While it was obvious that smokers had less wealth, Zagorsky said smokers also tend to come from lower socioeconomic categories, which may influence how much wealth they accumulate. So he analyzed the data taking into account many factors that may influence wealth, including education, race, and even income.

Even after these factors are taken into account, heavy smokers had a net worth that was about $8,300 less than non-smokers, while light smokers' net worth was about $2,000 lower.

In 2001, the typical smoker spent $715 per year on tobacco products. Multiplying this by the 7.5 years young baby boomers typically have smoked shows that the average baby boomer has spent more than $5,300 during their adult life on this habit. This figure is roughly right between the amount net worth falls for light smokers vs. heavy smokers, he said.

Zagorsky noted that the participants in this study were relatively young adults, with the oldest being 40 years old when the study concluded. That suggests the wealth gap could grow even larger if smokers continue their habit.

"Every year of smoking causes net worth to fall by almost 4 percent, so the effects add up over the years," he said.

"Since the typical family in the United States currently has relatively little wealth and saves relatively little money, the financial implications are clear if you smoke and want to increase your wealth, stop smoking."


Contact: Jay Zagorsky
Ohio State University

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