Smoking is bad for your wealth: Quit today!

Today, everyone can repeat the Surgeon General’s warning that smoking is terrible for your health.  Given the high costs in terms of everyday spending, insurance rates, quality of life, and other effects, smoking is also extremely harmful to your wealth.

Direct costs of smoking – the high price of cigarettes

According to a 2002 study, the average smoker smokes 13 cigarettes per day.  If we assume that a pack is 20 cigarettes, and the average pack costs $5, that’s $3.25 per day (= 13/20 * $5) or $1,187 per year.  Obviously, the more you smoke, the more it’s costing you.  With the federal tax per pack having been raised to over $1 combined with many state taxes at $2 (including Washington’s), the cost of cigarettes seems to only be going up ($6.33 per pack in Washington state as of this writing.)

For reference, a person in the 15% tax bracket could quit smoking their 13 cigarettes per day and contribute nearly $1,400 per year (pre-tax) to a 401k.  If this person quit smoking at age 30 and retired at age 65, their 35 years’ worth of cigarette savings would’ve grown to $206,000 (in real dollars) given historical stock market returns of 7%.

Indirect monetary costs of smoking – insurance, job prospects, resale values

In an article on the high costs of smoking, MSN Money “pulled some online quotes on 20-year term life insurance (a $500,000 policy) for a healthy 44-year-old male … The lowest quote for a nonsmoker was $1,140 in premiums per year; for someone smoking a pack a day, the lowest price more than doubled to $2,571 per year.

[…] According to eHealthInsurance.com, the monthly premium for a policy from Regence Blue Shield with a $1,500 deductible for a 44-year-old male nonsmoker is $552 more a year [for smokers].

A few state governments also charge their employees extra for health insurance if they smoke, and others are gradually joining the trend.”

Additionally, home owner’s typically receive a 10% discount for being non-smokers, tacking on about $85 per year for smokers, given average home insurance premiums of $850.

“Numerous studies find that smokers earn anywhere from 4% to 11% less than nonsmokers. It’s not just a loss of productivity* to smoke breaks and poorer health that takes a financial toll, researchers theorize; smokers are perceived to be less attractive and successful as well.”

Add on higher dry cleaning bills, lower resale values of homes and cars (or money shelled out to clean them), and perhaps the occasional teeth whitening service, and you’re looking at a few to several thousand a year to smoke.

[* – I should note that in fairness to smokers, I’ve read assertions that other than early death, there are no appreciable losses in job productivity attributed to smokers.  However, if employers believe there are anyway, smokers will still receive lower salaries, everything else being equal.]

Indirect non-monetary costs of smoking

Besides bad breath, yellow teeth and smelly personal effects, smoking seriously reduces one’s quality (and length) of life.  The average smoker dies 7-8 years sooner than a non-smoker.  In addition, they are way more likely to live an unhealthy (and therefore uncomfortable) old age, suffering higher incidences of various cancers, heart diseases and strokes:

“The number of people under the age of 70 who die from smoking-related diseases exceeds the total figure for deaths caused by breast cancer, AIDS, traffic accidents and drug addiction.”

There are other side effects as well due to reduced blood flow: “For men in their 30s and 40s, smoking increases the risk of erectile dysfunction (ED) by about 50 per cent.”  For both men and women, smokers’ skin develops more wrinkles and looks paler.

The sooner you quit, the better

The benefits of quitting become immediately apparent (including more cash in your pocket):

From Wikipedia: “The immediate effects of smoking cessation include:

  • Within 20 minutes blood pressure returns to its normal level
  • After 8 hours oxygen levels return to normal
  • After 24 hours carbon monoxide levels in the lungs return to those of a non-smoker and the mucus begins to clear
  • After 48 hours nicotine leaves the body and taste buds are improved
  • After 72 hours breathing becomes easier
  • After 2–12 weeks, circulation improves

Longer-term effects include:

  • After 5 years, the risk of heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker
  • After 10 years, the risk of lung cancer is almost the same as a non-smoker.”

While quitting is difficult due to the addictiveness of nicotine, there are several methods that greatly increase your chances of succeeding.  Try to surround yourself with those who have quit smoking, or are non-smokers:  “A study found … that smoking cessation by any given individual reduced the chances of others around them lighting up by the following amounts: a spouse by 67%, a sibling by 25%, a friend by 36%, and a coworker by 34%.”  So if your significant other, friends or coworkers smoke, try to get them to quit too.  You’ll both help each other succeed.

The best approach using pharmacological aids seems to be use of “[t]he Nicotine Patch plus [as needed] use of gum or spray” which “increased quit rates to 36.5%, the largest quit rate reported.”  In addition, joining a social ‘support’ group seems to help.  “Programs involving 8 or more treatment sessions can double success rates.”  Use support lines like 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), to talk to an expert and increase your likelihood of success even further (live IM chat is available too.)

Despite all these methods, it often takes people more than one attempt to quit, so keep at it if it doesn’t work out the first time.  Set a date to quit, then use the above resources to stick to it.  You can get started by tossing your cigarettes & buying some nicotine patches and gum.  Then, check out this free quitting guide at smokefree.gov.

Good luck, your bank account and body will thank you!

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7 Responses to “Smoking is bad for your wealth: Quit today!”

  1. Greg U. Says:

    Ward,

    Ok I am not going to pull a Paul Shirley again, but I am going to respond to this in another light (no pun intended), not that I personally back up what I am about to say but it is thinking outside the box.

    First some facts about me since I love talking about myself:

    1. I have never smoke a cigarette in my life
    2. I dislike them because of the health issues, they smell, and I have asthma

    But in another light, Cigarettes can be Good for your wealth

    Why and how?

    First this is my opinion. For those of you who do not know me I am not a scientist nor a statistician of any kind, I have nothing to backup some of my statements other than life lessons, personal observation, and my opinion. Since the scope of this article is about how one’s wealth/money is affected by smoking I will focus only on financials vice health because as Ward said it is obvious smoking is bad for your health. Income wise (and without knowing the repercussions of how your taxes are changed) I believe having a spouse will increase your income; the most obvious is because you have 2 incomes vs. 1. There are many ways to attract the opposite sex, I will focus on attracting the ladies since I am male. One way you can do it is to be lucky and be naturally attractive with a handsome face, handsome smile, and the body qualities that most women like ( The cliché saying of tall, dark, and handsome, that is you Ward). But dig deeper and that is not what all women want, some woman need a personality to go along with the physical attributes: a goofy one, a blunt one, someone with a spine, a funny one, a smart one, a dumb one, there’s a host of different kind of personalities women want. But there have been so many times that I’ve heard from woman (both unattractive and attractive) that say smoking is sexy. Now hold on… did you say smoking is sexy? Although this will not automatically get your one way ticket down the wedding isle and into the duel income bracket, it can be your one additional way out of the thousands of different ways to get the initial “in” for a girl. Sometimes some guys don’t have that “in”,ice-breaker, or ‘game” to attract the opposite sex so this may help them get a girl and possibly marry them where they both can share resources (wealth). Yes I know marrying someone is not about the money but again I am focusing on money since that is the scope of this blog.

    This however is a weak argument because it takes a lot to marry someone or to find the one. How can smoking help the smoker? Well for one, some people are skinnier when they smoke. This point will once again go towards attracting the opposite sex but smoking also helps relax one’s body. When someone is stressed out sometimes they eat and eat and eat. Or drink and drink and drink. Those things not only cost money but can make you fat. 2 strikes right there, of course the money part, but making you fat, that will possibly make you less attractive (I assume) to the opposite sex. Yes you may pick up some points from the women who like bigger men, but I think you would get an overall loss of attractiveness to the overall general public of woman. The smoking yes will cost money, but the increase in cost of food or drink and the possibility of losing your chance for a second income can be bad for your money.

    One last argument is it will give you a sense of commonality with so many other people. It is like an unofficial fraternity or society that can help you network. There have been many times that I have been in social situations where someone has asked if I want to step outside to smoke, I politely say no but I would have a chance to get to know that person if I were to go outside with them to smoke and converse. This will in turn help you in a weak sense to network yourself into possibly a better job, a better job opportunity, or to state this point again-find a girl. Smoking may give you an “in” for the job market as well.

    Ward I know you’re shaking your head and I am not trying to fight your blog(s), I am just bringing in another way to look at it. I know health care is very expensive and smoking can cost you A LOT OF MONEY in the long-run and that will probably out weigh any additional cost for food, drink, and such (assuming you have no health insurance or anything). I also know that if you start smoking you will also ban woman who don’t like smoking against you. I am just saying that personal wealth can be obtained (albeit possibly a small additional chance) by smoking even though I am against it and wouldn’t take this route in increasing my wealth.

  2. Ward Williams Says:

    @Greg – I agree with the ‘sense of commonality’ argument in that smoking is one way (a bad one, in my opinion) to fit in with a certain group, but I do NOT see anything that links that to increased wealth. (Smokers as a group tend to be low income; although that is not necessarily a causal relationship.)

    Also, since I AM a man of statistics, here’s one I found here at http://medicolegal.tripod.com/preventdivorce.htm:
    “Smokers have 53% more divorce than nonsmokers”. This suggests that smoking does NOT help your wealth from a marriage perspective, as divorce is very costly, and staying married is positively correlated with wealth (see ‘The Millionaire Next Door’ for data on this latter assertion.)

    Also, although I couldn’t find any surveys in the 5-10 minutes I spent on this, I would bet that the majority of Americans find smoking unattractive. (Only about 1 in 4 or 5 people smoke today in the US; the lowest level in several decades.)

    • Greg Uratsu Says:

      Ward-

      I agree to your response, I just like to see what you throw back at me sometimes. Smoking is BAD.

  3. 10 tips on how to get rich from Warren Buffett « Words of Ward: Ward's Guide to Personal Finance and Investing Says:

    […] you need to break off financial deals when they aren’t working.  This might mean giving up smoking to improve your health and wealth, switching to a no-fee credit card or checking account, or moving […]

  4. quit smoking without weight loss Says:

    We are a bunch of volunteers and opening a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with useful information to work on. You have performed a formidable process and our whole group will be thankful to you.

  5. Life Insurance – Why you need it, and what kind to get (Term!) | Words of Ward: Ward's Guide to Personal Finance and Investing Says:

    […] 3) Buy a term of 20 – 30 years, long enough to make sure all of your dependents will be financially independent (out of college, house paid off, spouse has retirement money) when the term expires and you are no longer covered.  Policies are cheap when you’re young and healthy (so quit smoking/don’t smoke.) […]


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