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The wealth effects of smoking
  1. J L Zagorsky
  1. Center For Human Resource Research, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Jay Zagorsky
 Ohio State University, 921 Chatham Lane, Suite 100 Columbus, OH 43221 USA;


Objective: To investigate the impact of smoking on the wealth of US young baby boomers.

Methodology: The research analyses self reported responses of both smoking habits and wealth holdings from a nationally representative sample of US individuals born between 1957 to 1964 (n  =  8908). Data are from four waves (1984, 1992, 1994, 1998) of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 cohort, a random survey of individuals conducted by the US Department of Labor using a stratified multistage area sample design.

Results: Regression results show lower net worth is associated with smoking, after holding constant a variety of demographic factors. Respondents who were ever heavy smokers are associated with a reduction in net worth of over $8300 while light smokers are $2000 poorer compared to non-smokers. Beyond this reduction, each adult year of smoking is associated with a decrease in net worth of $410 or almost 4%.

Conclusions: While a causal relation cannot be proven, smokers appear to pay for tobacco expenditures out of income that is saved by non-smokers. Hence, reductions in smoking will boost wealth, especially among the poor.

  • AFQT, Armed Forces Qualification Test
  • NLSY79, National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979
  • debt
  • net worth
  • wealth

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  • Competing interest statement: I have no competing interest in relation to this paper.