The Real Cost Of Smoking

By Michael Deane | July 09, 2009 AAA
The Real Cost Of Smoking

You know about the many health risks associated with smoking, but do you have a sense of how it impacts your financial health? Take a guess at how much smoking can cost a smoker per year.

Did you guess $15,000? From dental costs to laundry to property damage to productivity loss, the incidental costs of smoking can really add up to a whole lot more than you might think. The Obama administration recently passed a bill that will prevent tobacco companies from creating flavors and slogans that make some cigarettes appear less dangerous than others.

But although some companies might claim to be healthier for your body, all smoke-related products are unhealthy for your wallet.

Explicit Costs
Smoking causes one in five adult deaths in the U.S. That's a steep cost in itself, but there are a lot of lesser-known economic costs that go along with smoking.

Let's start with the most obvious out-of-pocket cost; if a smoker is going through a pack every day, that's about $30 per week at the average price (2008) of $4.35 per pack, but the price can be much higher. In New York, for example, the costs can reach $9 per pack, and in Canada, prices can be as high as $11 (or approximately $13 Canadian), making the cost around $60 per week. This puts the cost per year between $1,587.75 and $3,276.

And that's just the beginning. If you saved the $3,276 at an annual rate of 4%, you would have $191,083.63 after 30 years. That's almost $200,000 up in smoke!

In addition, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that healthcare costs for smokers can be 40% higher than for non-smokers. A report by The Department of Health and Human Services puts the average cost of healthcare per person at $8,000 and the cost for a smoker $11,200, or an additional $3,200. (Worried about your healthcare costs? Check out 20 Ways To Save On Medical Bills.)

Lost Productivity
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, smokers are more likely to absent from work than non-smokers. But even if you never miss a day, smoke breaks will cut into your productivity. If someone who is working full time takes five smoke breaks, that's a loss of one hour of work time every day. When you consider the extra time that is necessary to clean up in the washroom so as not to smell like an ash tray, and the walk from the office to the smoking area, the work time that's lost is probably closer to an hour and a half per day.

This time-loss does not just affect working hours either. It's what economists would call an opportunity cost, or what you lose in monetary terms by choosing to smoke rather than working. If a smoker is spending a minimum of one hour a day smoking, it's easy to do the math. If you work 5 days per week, you probably work about 250 days per year, once vacation time and holidays are accounted for. That's 250 work hours per year spent smoking. Breaking that down, it's about 10 days of work lost.

This loss in productivity may not affect your pay directly - after all, you're using your scheduled break time - but don't think that your employer won't notice if you accomplished less work than your non-smoking peers.

Depending on how you value your time, even if you were working at the federal minimum wage ($6.55), this would be an opportunity cost of $1637.50 per year, and would be much more if you're making above that. Adding in the greater amount of time smokers are absent from work overall, the loss to your income could be significantly more than your non-smoking co-workers.

Resale Costs
In addition to the direct costs, everything that you own that is exposed to cigarette smoke will go down in resale price; this goes for your car, your house, furniture and electronics, just about everything.

A study done at the San Diego State University in 2008, showed that the asking price for smokers' cars was about 9% lower than non-smokers' cars So, if the Blue Book value of your used car is $15,000, expect to get nearly $1,400 less than that if it smells like an ashtray. (Planning on selling your car? Be sure to read Top 10 Ways To Get Top Dollar For Your Car.)

The same goes for your house. Tobacco Free Florida reports that 76% of people interviewed say they would not purchase a house that smells like smoke. This means that even if you are able to get the smoke smell out of your home to sell it, it will cost you: carpets might need to be replaced before selling, and there may need to be a house de-odorizing that can cost up to $10,000. In addition, re-painting the house and changing the carpets could run approximately $3,000.

Hygiene and Vanity Costs
If you're a stickler about your appearance, smoking will also strain your personal care bills; teeth whiteners, face creams to reduce the smoke-induced signs of aging and perfumes/colognes to cover up the scent are all products that smokers might spend money on. Also, smoking can damage clothes, furniture, rugs and car interiors. A wayward ember can instantly ruin a shirt, a couch or a car seat.

Costs can also add up when it comes to vanity items that fight against the signs of smoking. Air fresheners for your car and home could run you about $10 per month, as well as laundry and dry-cleaning costs for your clothes and sheets, which could run about $30+ per month. If you have to just dry clean one extra item per week, that alone is between $5-10, depending on the item.

Also, even if you have really nice clothes, you will probably lose out on a few dollars when you are unable to find a consignment shop to buy them. Do-it-yourself teeth whitening will run you about $400 per year ($30+ per month for a whitening kit), while creams and perfumes can add an additional $300 per year (roughly $25/monthly). This is not including the extra trips to the dentist and oral surgeons that invariably come with smoking.

The Real Cost
Between cigarette costs, cleaning, hygiene, vanity items and opportunity costs, the average cost per year for a smoker is about $5,200 on the lower end of the scale, but can increase dramatically if you're selling a house or a car. Adding in the decreased asking price for a car and the extra cleaning costs for a house, you can be looking at a price tag of $15,000-$20,000.

Keep in mind that in addition to these costs, smokers can pay an additional 50-100% for life insurance and are less likely to be employed than those who don't smoke. Many employers have factored in that smokers cost more to insure, and on average are less productive than non-smokers (remember those opportunity costs!).

So, if you thought the cost of your smoking habit begins and ends when you pay for your next pack of cigarettes, think again. The financial burden of your habit is likely costing you much more than you ever imagined. (How can you reduce the stress on your wallet? Find out by reading Top 6 Most Common Financial Mistakes.)

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