Teens with jobs more likely to smoke

By Tom Nordlie • Published: March 27th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

A job can provide a teenager with many things… money, self-discipline, and a sense of accomplishment.

Unfortunately, it may provide something else… an increased risk of smoking.

That’s the conclusion of a study published recently in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers interviewed about four-hundred Baltimore teens involved in a long-term study of urban youth.

Almost ninety percent of them were African-American, the rest Caucasian. Slightly more than half were male.

During tenth grade, about one-quarter of the teens had jobs.

Among those who didn’t work, about eight percent were smokers.

In contrast, eleven percent of teens who worked an average of one to ten hours a week smoked.

And for those working more than ten hours a week, a whopping twenty-one percent were smokers. Members of this group also tended to start smoking earlier.

The researchers didn’t investigate why employment correlated to smoking. But they offered a few possibilities:

For one thing, teens with jobs can afford to buy cigarettes.

Also, the opportunity to take smoke breaks and temporarily leave their job duties might appeal to some young workers.

Finally, teens may smoke as a way of coping with the stresses of balancing work and school.

The researchers said industries that use teenage workers, such as fast-food restaurants, should consider adopting no-smoking policies for their employees.

Getting a job is a significant step toward adulthood.

But drawing a paycheck shouldn’t put teens on the fast track to unhealthy habits even grown-ups can do without.