If you've ever smoked, you know that quitting the habit is no small endeavor. Researchers now tell us, though, that quitting may be more out of reach for some groups than others -- and one factor that seems to play a large part is the smoker's occupation.

In a recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health, Dr. Elizabeth Barbeau notes that working-class Americans (think mechanics, construction workers, laborers, machine operators, and the like) are more likely to smoke than professionals. She adds that, "There may be a presumption that people in the working class are not as interested in quitting smoking, but we found that people in working-class occupations tried to quit just as many times as professional people. The kicker is they were not as successful." (In the past year, some 44% of all smokers tried to kick the habit at least once.)

Helping employees quit smoking is a worthwhile endeavor for companies, and many are offering smoking cessation programs. These firms include General Motors (NYSE:GM), Weyerhaeuser (NYSE:WY), General Electric (NYSE:GE), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), and General Dynamics (NYSE:GD). Research now indicates that one effective way to promote cessation is to bundle such information with other health promotions.

If you're wondering why you're reading about smoking on a financially oriented website, it's because smoking is a financial matter as well as a health one. Not only does tobacco use snuff out roughly 440,000 lives per year, but it also costs taxpayers more than $75 billion annually in health-care bills, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

There are financial concerns on a smaller scale, too. Each smoker who consumes one $4.50 pack per day is forking over more than $1,600 per year. If that were diverted into long-term investments, it could make the difference between a comfortable retirement and a painful one.

Learn more about quitting smoking at QuitNet and the CDC. And drop by our wonderfully supportive Quitting Smoking discussion board for tips and encouragement (a 30-day free trial is available).

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.