Tob Control 14:99-105 doi:10.1136/tc.2003.005884
  • Research paper

If smoking increases absences, does quitting reduce them?

  1. J L Sindelar1,*,
  2. N Duchovny2,
  3. T A Falba1,
  4. S H Busch1
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
  2. 2Congressional Budget Office, Washington DC, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Tracy A Falba
 PO Box 208034, New Haven, CT 06520-8034, USA;
  • Received 11 September 2003
  • Accepted 16 September 2004


Objective: This study examined the impact of smoking, quitting, and time since quit on absences from work.

Methods: Data from the nationally representative Tobacco Use Supplements of the 1992/93, 1995/96, and 1998/99 Current Population Surveys were used. The study included full time workers aged between 18–64 years, yielding a sample size of 383 778 workers. A binary indicator of absence due to sickness in the last week was analysed as a function of smoking status including time since quit for former smokers. Extensive demographic variables were included as controls in all models.

Results: In initial comparisons between current and former smokers, smoking increased absences, but quitting did not reduce them. However, when length of time since quit was examined, it was discovered that those who quit within the last year, and especially the last three months, had a much greater probability of absences than did current smokers. As the time since quitting increased, absences returned to a rate somewhere between that of never and current smokers. Interactions between health and smoking status significantly improved the fit of the model.

Conclusions: Smokers who quit reduced their absences over time but increase their absences immediately after quitting. Quitting ill may account for some but not all of this short run impact.


  • * Also National Bureau of Economic Research

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