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December 10 2007

The Cost of Smoking (It’s Much More Than You Think!)

Fred Kelley,

Money. It’s always on our minds, especially now that world markets have plunged in the last few weeks. People all over the globe are very concerned as they watch their investments and retirement accounts lose 10, 20, 30% or more.

If you’re like me, you’re looking for ways to cut expenses and save money. With a handful of phone calls I cut my phone bill just by asking for a better deal, found cheaper homeowners and car insurance that will save about $400 per year, switched to a cheaper garbage service and will get three months at no cost, cut back on eating out to save $100 per week, and took other money saving steps as well.

When you look deep into your life, you’ll probably find lots of ways to save money. As a smoker, you have a small gold mine, literally at your fingertips. Cigarettes are costing you a small fortune! If you quit, the amount of money you save will probably shock and amaze you, and may even make you mad and depressed too! Best of all, it should excite and inspire you to quit smoking.

The True Cost of Smoking, Much More Than Just Cigarettes

If you’ve never taken the time to examine just how much your smoking habit is costing you, then you are in for a shock because there’s more to it than meets the eye. Let’s look at a simple example.

Let’s say you pay three dollars per pack of cigarettes. I realize this may be low for many people, and high for others. But three dollars is a good average. Now, let’s assume you smoke one pack per day. During the course of a year, those cigarettes are costing you 365 x $3 = $1,095. Not bad, right? It won’t break the bank for most people.

Now let’s think a little deeper about associated costs. You’ve got to get your cigarettes at a store. Sometimes you make a special run to the store just to get cigarettes, right? So there is gas money on top of cigarette money. Let’s just assume you have to spend gas money (and wear and tear on your car) on one out of three packs. We’ll just use $1.00 as the cost to get a pack. So over the course of a year, that’s another 365 ÷ 3 x $1 = $122. Just to get cigarettes!

Smokers Pay More For Insurance

As a smoker you pay higher health insurance rates. While your employer may be paying for your insurance, this is still a cost to you because your employer could instead pay you a higher wage if they didn’t have to pay for insurance. And a new trend has some employers passing this higher cost on to smoking employees. Some are even testing spouses and charging extra if they smoke! As a smoker, your health insurance is probably 15% to 20% higher. To make our health insurance cost calculation, let’s assume that health insurance for you is $350 per month. Using 15% as the extra you pay as a smoker, if you were a non-smoker, your insurance would be $297.50 per month. Over the course of a year your extra cost is 12 x $52.50 = $630!

Next, let’s stay in the insurance category. As a smoker, you pay higher life insurance rates too. Smokers will pay about 100% more per year. So if a non-smoker your age could get life insurance for $250 a year, you’d pay $500.

Smoking Depreciates Assets

There are other less tangible monetary costs to smoking. For example, if you smoke inside your car or home, you are devaluing that asset. When you try to sell your car or home in the future, you can count on getting less money for them. Many people won’t even consider buying a used car or home if the previous owner smoked in them. Likewise all your furniture, clothes, drapes, etc. probably reek of smoke and, if you wanted to sell them, you’d have a difficult time.

A few years ago, one of my neighbors received a nice dining room table when a relative died. The woman had been a heavy smoker so the table smelled absolutely disgusting. My neighbor finally had to give the table away because it smelled so awful and it was making the rest of their house stink.

Employers Legally Discriminate Against Smokers

Another intangible cost of smoking is impaired career advancement. Many companies have begun refusing to hire smokers. Employers know that smokers cost more money than non-smokers. Smokers take longer and more frequent breaks throughout the day, use more sick days, and as mentioned previously they cost more to insure.

Whether or not employers have an official policy of not hiring smokers, there may be an unspoken preference for non-smokers. Recently my wife went on a job interview. The owner of the company—who conducted the interview—told my wife that he had instantly eliminated job candidates if he could detect smoke on them during their interview. He was a non-smoker and did not want to hire smokers.

So, how much is your smoking hurting your chances for job advancement and higher pay? This is difficult to calculate, but is likely costing the average smoker several thousand dollars per year! And if you are earning less now, that means your retirement account and Social Security payments will be less when you retire, too.

Other costs of smoking include increased dental care and cleaning costs plus increased clothing cleaning costs. And while not a monetary costs, smokers will find a limited pool of dating candidates since most non-smokers won’t date a smoker.

The Cost of Smoking Adds Up

So far, we found that the annual cost of smoking looks something like this:

Cigarettes $1,095
Gas $122
Health insurance $630
Life insurance $250
Reduced wages/salary $1,000-5,000

Total annual cost: $3,097 to $7,097

Decreased car value $500-3,000
Decreased home value $1,000-10,000
Total asset depreciation cost: $1,500 to $13,000

Gulp! That’s hard to swallow. These numbers may be more or less for you, but it’s probably close.

The Final Insult: Interest

Now, what if you could invest that money in a safe investment that paid just 5% per year? For simplicity, we’ll use the lower end of the annual savings, $3,097, and ignore the asset depreciation. Over the course of 30 years, your money would grow to $188,828. Even if you adjust for inflation, your investment is still worth $112,624!

As a smoker you are robbing yourself and your family of thousands of dollars! Your retirement is going up in smoke. And if you need extra cash right now, cutting out cigarettes will deliver instant results.

If the health issues don’t convince you to quit smoking, perhaps the financial issues will.

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