Unless you're a monk on a mountaintop, you probably have vices too. However some vices can cost your wallet and your health dearly if you are not careful. We look at three of the most common (and legal!) vices – smoking, drinking and overeating, and see where in the world these vices have taken the strongest holds. (Can your principles make you richer or poorer? Find out if it pays pick your portfolio based on ethics. Check out Socially Responsible Investing Vs. Sin Stocks.)
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We have come a long way since the so called heyday of smoking. In the 1950s smoking was cheap, advertised and socially acceptable. In fact you could even say that in 1950s America, cigarette smoking was the height of cool and glamor. Hollywood icons such as James Dean and Humphrey Bogart were never without one. Screen beauties such as Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich made smoking look sensual and sophisticated. By the late 1950s around half of the adult population of industrialized nations smoked.
However times have changed, and smoking is seen as an unhealthy and expensive vice. Smoking is likely one of the most costly vices, affecting both your wallet and your health. A lifelong smoking habit will cost thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Furthermore, smokers worldwide may not take comfort in the fact that there are 6 million annual tobacco-related deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). That toll is expected to rise to 8 million annual tobacco-related deaths by 2030, according to the WHO report released recently. In the US alone smoking accounts for 450,000 deaths each year, and lung cancer is the most common of those deaths.
But where in the world has the worst smoking habit?
According to the World Health Organization, Lebanon tops the poll for the country that has the highest percentage of daily smokers at almost 59%. Guinea, Nauru, Kiribati and Bulgaria all appear in the top five. The greatest increases in smoking in recent years are in poor and developing countries. Only 26 countries have implemented comprehensive bans on direct and indirect tobacco advertising, and many do not have high levels of compliance.
And which American city has the worst cigarette habit? A survey showed that Tulsa, Oklahoma tops the charts with 24.6% of its population as smokers. (Like beauty, whether something is sinful often depends whom you ask. Refer to The Evolution Of Sinful Investing.)
From country to country around the world people's relationship with alcohol varies greatly. Most adults worldwide enjoy a regular glass of wine, and most health experts say that's a good thing, if kept to single drink a day. However where does a love of a good time morph into a health problem?
According to the World Health Organization report, the country topping the tables of annual alcohol consumption per person is Moldova. The average Moldavian consumes 18.22 liters of alcohol annually, three times more than the global average of 6.1 liters. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe and is a major wine producer. Many of its people drink cheap homemade wine, vodka and other spirits.
Alcohol causes an estimated 2.5 million deaths every year globally, the report estimates, including 320,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 29. Alcohol is the third-leading risk factor for poor health in the world. The WHO has called on governments across the world to do more to combat alcoholism and binge drinking.
The following top five heaviest drinking nations also include the Czech Republic with an annual per capita alcohol consumption of 16.45 liters, Hungary (16.27 liters), Russia (15.76 liters) and the Ukraine (15.6 liters).
Dante lists gluttony as one of the Seven Deadly sins. This is a vice that is costing modern society dearly as individual health declines and national healthcare costs increase.
Unfortunately this is also one vice where the U.S. is near to the top of the lists, as America now has the highest adult obesity rate in the developed world at 34%, according to a report by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
The U.S. (68%) is ranked second behind Mexico (70%) in the proportion of adults who are overweight. U.S. obesity rates have long been cause for concern, especially as the healthcare costs skyrocket.
The OECD report warns, "Since the 1980s, obesity has spread at an alarming rate. Changes in food supply and eating habits, combined with a dramatic fall in physical activity, have made obesity a global epidemic. Across OECD countries, one in two adults is currently overweight and one in six is obese. The rate of overweight people is projected to increase by a further 1% per year for the next 10 years in some countries. Rates are highest in the United States and Mexico and lowest in Japan and Korea, but have been growing virtually everywhere. Children have not been spared, with up to one in three currently overweight."
So, stop a minute to consider what effect your vices are having on you. Is your health or bank balance paying the price? Stop and do the math on your favorite vices and consider if they really worth it after all. That said, I hold my caffeine habit near and dear – and will not be giving up those the moments of sheer pleasure just yet! (Sin stocks may seen outright undesirable to some, but these "naughty" industries bring stable returns - even in hard times. Check out Sinful Investing: Is It For You?)