Raising pay can reduce smoking rates

Sep 8, 2015

Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters/X00320

By University of California – Davis Health System

In addition to restricting when and where tobacco is used at work, UC Davis Health System research shows that employers can do something else to reduce smoking: raise wages.

Published in the August issue of the Annals of Epidemiology, the study found that a 10 percent increase in wages leads to about a 5 percent drop in smoking rates among workers who are male or who have high school educations or less and improves their overall chances of quitting smoking from 17 to 20 percent.

“Our findings are especially important as inflation-adjusted wages for low-income jobs have been dropping for decades and the percentage of workers in low-paying jobs has been growing nationwide,” said study senior author Paul Leigh, professor of public health sciences and researcher with the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at UC Davis. “Increasing the minimum wage could have a big impact on a significant health threat.”

Smoking rates are declining in the U.S., but it remains the leading cause of preventable deaths from illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Leigh and lead author Juan Du, who received her doctoral degree at UC Davis, wanted to know if wage changes could leverage a further reduction in the number of people who smoke.

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3 comments on “Raising pay can reduce smoking rates

  • @OP – In addition to restricting when and where tobacco is used at work, UC Davis Health System research shows that employers can do something else to reduce smoking: raise wages.

    Apparently having stroke in a particular part of the brain also reduces smoking!

    A particular region of the brain may drive smoking addiction, say scientists who found stroke survivors with damage to their insular cortex more easily kicked the habit.

    They studied 156 stroke patients with different patterns of brain injury.

    More of those with insular cortex damage successfully gave up smoking and reported fewer withdrawal symptoms than the other stroke patients.

    Experts say targeting this brain area may help other smokers quit.

    Most stop smoking medicines currently on the market work by blocking the brain’s reward pathways in response to nicotine.

    And patches and gums aim to lessen cravings by supplying a controlled dose of nicotine as the person weans themselves off tobacco.

    But post-graduate researcher Amir Abdolahi and colleagues believe the insular cortex could be a valuable new target for quit smoking aids.

    Therapies that could hone in on this area of the brain and disrupt its role in addiction, potentially with new drugs or other techniques such as deep brain stimulation or transcranial magnetic stimulation, should be explored, they say.

    The research findings are published in two medical journals – Addiction and Addictive Behaviors.

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  • Gross anonymous data combined with weak speculation, suggests agenda-based research enhancing insignificant correlations. The study would have readers believe that a man in a low-income job who makes $10 an hour would cut back on his smoking rate 5% on average if he made $1 more an hour ($10 X 10% = $1). The statistical fallacy of the base plays a role in the longitudinal findings. Per cent increases on low wage rates in the 10% range are insignificant in low inflation economies. Currently, many jurisdictions in the U.S. are considering raising the minimum wage from $7.50-$10 an hour to $15 an hour. The wage hike represents an increase of between 50% and 100%. Wages have been relatively stagnant in the U.S since 1980, and such increases would be unprecedented in national history. Simply put there has been no long-term data available to date pertinent to comparing significant minimum wage hikes and rates of smoking. The study may have measured subtle correlations between “subjects” with higher cognitive ability who were promoted to higher-paid positions and subsequently exercised better-informed judgement about cutting back on or quitting smoking. The researchers imply they considered only young males with high school educations or less, certainly not a decisive factor justifying the claim.

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  • Let’s hope politicians don’t use this as an excuse to raise minimum wages. Minimum wage laws will obviously cause unemployment when above prevailing wage rate since increasing the cost of a service decreases the quantity of that service purchased. A possible explanation for the study is that when wages were increased more smokers than non-smokers lost their job.

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