Smoking Habits Across Professions

Smoking has an impact on a person's professional life, as much as it does on their health and well-being. Being a smoker can negatively affect a person's income, their career prospects, as well as their chances of getting hired in the first place.

Author: Christina Matthews
Last updated: March 6, 2019
Man businessman working late hours
Elnur/Shutterstock

Smokers take more days off, get sick more often, and incur greater costs as an employee, than people who do not smoke. For these reasons, some employers are reluctant to hire smokers. But these conditions are not the same for all professions, where smoking is more accepted.

Though it is in decline, tobacco use is still commonly seen today– 19.3% of adults smoke in the US. Sometimes it is a bad habit that is mostly performed at home during free time. However, once a person becomes addicted to nicotine, they may begin smoking at work too.

Here is a breakdown of some of the smoking habits of professions discussed in this article:

  • 30.3% in food service
  • 14.4% of office and administrative workers
  • 12.66% in finance
  • 17.3% in art, design, and media
  • 9.2% working in science and education
  • 26.1% of transportation employees
  • 12.3% of legal professionals

This article will dive into smoking across different professions. What professions have the highest smoking rates? How come? Are there jobs that can put you at risk of becoming a smoker? Or what about jobs that will make it harder for you to quit? If these are questions you have, then read on to learn the answers.

Builder smoking at work

Smoking and Blue-Collar Workers

Most establishments ban employees from tobacco use on the clock. This keeps people healthy by protecting employees from secondhand and thirdhand smoke. This also saves the company lost time from people smoking on the clock. But there are still some professions where employees can often use tobacco on the clock, and even while working.

  • This is very common in mechanics. Corporate mechanic offices can implement rules about smoking. Many mechanic shops, especially auto mechanic shops, are small family businesses. Some are even run by one person as a hobby.

For a company this small, there is usually one person in charge of the shop. If they want to use cigarettes on the job, there is nothing stopping them. They also have the power to say whether or not their employees can. Because mechanics are stereotypically strong, hard-working, middle to lower-class men, smoking is common. This is one of the largest demographics for tobacco use.

  • Firefighters is another profession where cigarette use is still common. Like mechanics, the majority of firefighters fall into the primary demographic for tobacco use. They are mature men with middle to low incomes. A lot of them formed the habit when smoking was more popular for young people. They brought it with them to their firefighting jobs.

The major reason smoking is popular amongst firemen is the boredom factor. Every once in a while, firefighters are called to save burning buildings and human lives. The rest of the time though, they are sitting inside waiting for a phone call. During that time, it can be hard to self-entertain. One way firefighters do this is by smoking.

  • Middle-class workmen also see high tobacco usage rates. These are people that work in traditional, tiring industrial settings. Workmen are typically not allowed to use cigarettes on the job if they work indoors. However, they do get breaks, and this is where smoking is common.

Many people use smoking as a way to decrease stress and relax. They look forward to going on a cigarette break all day while at work. Many corporations actually have rules that managers are required to let employees out on a smoke break. This encourages workmen to use cigarette because in some cases, it is the reason they get a break. If they quit smoking, they would lose their breaks. Traveling workmen have high tobacco usage for similar reasons. They use tobacco in between jobs to blow of steam.

In all of these jobs, smoking can increase the rate at which accidents occur. This could be from distraction caused by smoking on the job. Accidents can also be caused by the residual effects of cigarettes, such as lethargy and confusion. Not engaging in tobacco use while at work can help prevent these accidents from occurring.

Smoking Amongst Office Workers

Like workmen, many office workers live for their breaks. Especially when they are dissatisfied with their job. Job satisfaction can be a cause of smoking to begin with. It adds stress and decreases positive emotions for the majority of the employee’s day. When a person is feeling like this, they may turn to tobacco to make themselves feel better. Additionally, it is bad news if smoking is the only way for a person to get a break. People working in offices sometimes use tobacco to distract themselves from their jobs.

  • For example, practicing lawyers can have very long days of hard, mind-numbing work. They may even be glued to a desk chair all day. Sometimes smoking can be one of the only ways for them to get up and move around.

The brief rush that nicotine causes can add some excitement into their lives. 12.3% of lawyers admitted to using tobacco in a recent study. Additionally, it is a hobby that distracts the body. Lawyers who do not find great joy in their professions may need this.

  • Similar problems also occur in the IT and education/STEM fields. A problem that this causes is a decrease in productivity though. On top of taking more breaks to support their new habit, cigarettes also decrease energy levels. Even when someone is not smoking, their use of tobacco can still be affecting them.

People get restless from being staring at a screen or doing the same thing every day. They overlook all of the negative consequences of cigarette smoking. Instead, they focus on the few positives they believe cigarettes can bring.

Unfortunately, the negatives heavily outweigh the positives. Additionally, there are lots of healthy hobbies that could distract a person the way that cigarettes do. Only, they can do it without slowly harming a person’s body.

Female and male working

Tobacco Use in the Service Industry

The service industry includes professions such as delivery workers, catering employees, commercial drivers, textile workers, and more. Many people that work these jobs use tobacco. The problem is that their smoking habits do not just affect their personal health.

They can also negatively affect the health of the company they work for. For example, smoking around textiles can lead to discoloration and odors. Nobody wants to purchase stinky, discolored textiles. Additionally, the smell of tobacco can remain in clothes, or in a person’s breath. If you are providing a service for someone, they will be able to smell this on you.

Commercial and delivery drivers typically use tobacco in between deliveries or while waiting on their clients. This causes their cars and trucks to smell like cigarettes and decreases the value of their vehicle, as no one wants to purchase a car that wreaks.

Additionally, when smoking in or near vehicles, sometimes ash or butts land on the insides of the car. Their burning embers can cause burns and ugly black smudges on the car’s interior. This makes the worker look less professional. If they do not like the smell or do not approve of smoking, you will lose their respect.

When you lose the respect of your clients, you end up losing money if they no longer want your business. Even if they do not fire you, they still may not tip you as much, and tips are an important part of the service industry.
Customers will be less likely to tip people that smell of cigarettes. This is because they believe that their service provider will probably spend some of their tip money on cigarettes. They may believe this to be a waste of money and tip significantly less or not at all. People that use tobacco already lose a lot of money from buying cigarettes. They do not need to lose tip money from their customers too.

Man bearded smoking cigarette in car

In the service industry, there is also the issue of thirdhand smoke. It is the chemicals and other residual elements from cigarettes that settle on surfaces long after a smoker is done smoking and gone. People in the service industry can leave thirdhand smoke on surfaces they are around without knowing it. These can be surfaces that their clients touch either temporarily, or even surfaces in their home, like on a desk.

Adults and children alike can inhale this chemical residual without knowing it. Inhaling these dangerous chemicals can harm their lungs and other parts of their body. The worst part it, thirdhand smoke cannot be avoided if it is not known about. Workers in the service industry frequently expose their innocent clients to dangerous chemicals without even realizing it.

Smoking in the Art World

Picture an artist or creative professional in your head. Though all people are unique, society definitely has a stereotype for these types of jobs. It includes statement clothing, bold personalities, and often, cigarettes.

  • The largest example of this is celebrities that use tobacco. Icons like Miley Cyrus, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lady Gaga, Daniel Radcliffe, Zayn Malik, and even Prince Harry have been seen with cigarettes lit between their lips. 24% of young celebrities use tobacco. Smoking is also very popular in the music industry. This puts pressure on famous people use cigarettes when they see others doing it. People in this type of limelight also serve as role models for humans around the world.

Their behavior has large effects on the behavior of others. If a young adult thinks that Miley Cyrus is cool, and sees her smoking, this can make this person want to start the habit too. They may believe that it will help them get closer to achieving as status as important as their role model.

In reality, smoking will not make them rich or famous. It will just decrease their health and actually make them less wealthy. Cigarette costs vary on a state by state, country by country different. Regardless though, the average tobacco user stills spends about $5000 on packs of cigarettes per year. This is enough money to visit the other side of the world or purchase a car.

  • Models are another profession with high smoking rights. Take Gemma Ward and Lily Donaldson for example. Some may believe that most models would not use tobacco to protect their bodies. Smoking causes premature aging of the skin and wrinkles. Tobacco use affects all skin on the body, causing wrinkles and discoloration all over.

The chemicals in cigarettes also decrease the elasticity of skin and collagen levels, making skin appear less youthful. Why would models want to engage in a hobby that can ruin their best asset– their body? First, it is important to note that nicotine can serve as an appetite suppressant.

Models who are trying to maintain a thin figure often start smoking just to stay skinny. It takes away their hunger cues, and so they eat less and therefore lose weight. While this seems like a great trick though, it ends up doing more harm than good.

Not eating when your body needs energy decreases energy levels and puts bodies into starvation mode. Eventually, using nicotine to curb your appetite will lead to a decrease in your metabolism. Your metabolism is how much energy your body uses to function. When this falls, you burn fewer calories during day to day activities, and it will become harder to lose weight. If you decide to begin eating normally again, you will also gain weight much easier. This is very hard to reverse.

Stylishly dressed handsome man smoking

A Final Look at Correlations Between Smoking and Your Job

No profession is completely void of smoking. Other professions that smoking is popular in are paramedics and medical professionals, volunteers, law enforcement, and the energy industry. If you want to avoid starting cigarette use or quit smoking, you do not have to avoid these industries.

It is just important that you are aware of these problems and why they exist. This is how to best protect yourself from starting a dangerous hobby or being injured by secondhand and thirdhand residual.

If you want to go into one of these professions without starting to use tobacco products, carrying a protective mask may help. If you get tempted to engage, you can use hobbies and exercise to distract yourself. If you are in one of these hobbies, you can use hobbies, or even vaping to help yourself quit in the presence of smokers.


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