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Pay Boost Decreases Smoking Rates

Update Date: Sep 01, 2015 12:59 AM EDT

Raising pay decreases smoking rates, according to a new study.

New research has linked a 10 percent increase in wages to a 5 percent decrease in smoking rates among workers. Further analysis also revealed that a boost in wages also increases the overall chances of quitting smoking by up 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," senior author Paul Leigh, professor of public health sciences and researcher with the Center for Healthcare Policy and Research at UC Davis, said in a news release. "Increasing the minimum wage could have a big impact on a significant health threat."

The latest study involved data from the 1999 to 2009 Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Participants were employees between the ages of 21 and 65.

Researchers found that a 10 percent boost in wages leads to about a 5 percent decrease in smoking rates among male employees. However, researchers did not find the same results in female employees.

"We assume that people begin smoking for reasons other than wages," said Leigh. "About 90 percent of smokers in the United States started smoking before age 20, so the data captured a sample of most full-time workers who have ever smoked."

"Our findings add to the existing body of epidemiological literature showing that lower income predicts poor health habits," Leigh concluded. "They also show that higher minimum wages could reduce the prevalence of smoking."

The findings are published in the journal Annals of Epidemiology.

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