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Discretionary spending priorities of unemployed, job-seeking adults who smoke cigarettes.

Abstract

Objective

Tobacco use is detrimental to physical and financial wellbeing. Smoking is associated with unemployment and a harder time finding re-employment. The current study examined job-seekers' prioritization of smoking over other discretionary items.

Methods

Adult, unemployed job-seekers smoking daily ranked items from 1 (highest) to 13 (lowest) for prioritization of their discretionary spending. The online survey randomly ordered the presentation of items. The Heaviness of Smoking Index (HSI, time to first cigarette and cigarettes per day) assessed severity of nicotine addiction.

Results

The sample (N = 290) was 70% men, 42% African American and 30% non-Hispanic Caucasian, with mean age of 43 (SD = 11), smoking an average of 12 cigarettes per day (SD = 6), and 67% smoking within 30 min of waking. Overall, cigarettes (M = 4.7, SD = 3.1) ranked second in importance behind only food (M = 2.5, SD = 2.7); 45% of the sample ranked tobacco in their top 3 spending priorities, and 26% ranked cigarettes as a higher priority than food. Cellular charges, transportation, grooming, and clothing ranked third through sixth, respectively. Higher HSI scores significantly correlated with greater prioritization of cigarettes (r = -0.25), and lower prioritization of food (r = 0.16) and transportation (r = 0.13), p's < 0.05.

Conclusions

Findings indicate cigarettes were highly prioritized, second only to food among job-seekers who smoke. Cigarettes were prioritized over job-seeking resources and health care, particularly among those who were more heavily addicted. Tobacco addiction can preempt basic life needs and reduce resources for finding re-employment.

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