What Bad Habits Cost

By Linda McMaken | August 14, 2012 AAA

We all have at least one bad habit. Whether it's ice cream, chocolate, a bit of bubbly, a taste for the brew or a puff of good tobacco, we all have our vices. What many of us don't realize is how much those habits cost us financially. Very often we substitute one bad habit for another. Perhaps you quit smoking only to have picked up the habit of chewing tobacco. Maybe you've sworn off chocolate only to drink a glass of wine daily. If you think about these habits in terms of cost, you might swear off a few more of those not so good for you habits.

Tobacco
With recent tax increases on tobacco products over the last decade, the price per pack of cigarettes is staggering. Starting at an average of $5 per pack, many states add on taxes that make the final cost around $10. That's 50 cents per cigarette. If you smoke two packs per day, that's $140 per week or $7,280 per year. That's enough for a car, or a great vacation.
This doesn't address the health costs that are associated with smoking. Statistics show that between 1997 and 2001, smoking cost $167 billion in health costs and work days lost, just in the U.S. The Cleveland Clinic reports that "5 million deaths per year are caused by smoking, and an estimated 38,000 deaths are the result of secondhand smoke."

Although there are fewer smokers and more people are kicking the habit, they seem to be exchanging smoking for chewing tobacco, pipes or cigars. Because of federal regulations, cigar and pipe tobacco aren't taxed as heavily as cigarettes, and are therefore cheaper. Plus, cigars come in a multitude of flavors and they appeal to a younger customer.

On average, each household in the U.S. spends roughly $380 per year on tobacco products. That is more money than is spent on fresh fruit and milk combined. Considering the cost, and the health risk, it would be wise to consider quitting all tobacco products.

Alcohol
Most adults enjoy a beer during the football game, a glass of wine with a good meal or an enjoyable drink during the holidays. Many occasions just lend themselves to a good libation. There are those who have a habit of spending very heavily on alcohol, and they probably don't realize the amount of money they are spending.

Of all beverages sold in the U.S., soda is the most consumed. While that carbonated drink may not be good for you, it doesn't have the effects of alcoholic drinks. The number one alcoholic beverage hands down is beer. American's drink nearly 21 gallons per person, per year. About 325.5 million gallons of beer are consumed just on Super Bowl Sunday alone.

Although Americans like wine, they don't drink as much of it as beer. In 2010, we popped the cork on 784 million gallons of the fermented grape nectar. That is around $19 billion. Whisky is another drink we are very good at consuming. Johnny Walker Red Label sells roughly 63 million liters a year. Broken down that becomes 1.5 billion shots per year, or 3,000 shots per minute around the globe.

When you factor in the cost from the abuse of alcohol, you can add another $184 billion. The yearly tax collected on alcohol is approximately $8 billion. This number is just 4% of the $184 billion in "alcohol-related" costs to the taxpayer. According to the Centers for Disease Control, alcohol is responsible for "72% of lost work days, 11% of healthcare expenses, 9% of law enforcement/criminal justice expenses and 6% of motor vehicles crashes."

Junk Food
Junk food is a multi-million dollar industry. It is also being blamed for the current wave of obesity in the U.S. The go-to food in an economic downturn, junk food is a cheap alternative. Since the economy has been sinking, McDonald's has seen an increase of 7.1% in sales, Wendy's/Arby's a 87% growth rate and Domino's Pizza a whopping 150% increase in sales since 2008.

These fast food restaurants offer affordable, easy, on the go meals, and Americans spend $110 billion dollars a year at those eateries. In fact, we spend more on fast food than we do on music, videos, movies, newspapers, books and magazines combined. If you break that down per person, it's about $5 per day or $1,820 per year. That's roughly 5.6% of the average worker's yearly salary.

The government and taxpayers support this industry with subsidies on corn, soybeans and wheat which are the main ingredients in junk food. According to HiveHealthMedia.com, "Every taxpayer in the U.S. is paying for 17 Twinkies. Of the 37 key ingredients in Twinkies, 14 of them are subsidized by the government."

Shelling out nearly $2,000 per year on eating those foods needs to be added to the other costs associated with junk food, healthcare and the environment. Health problems from over-consumption of junk foods leading directly to obesity will cost taxpayers $344 billion by 2018, that's nearly $6,000 of medical costs each of us will incur per year for obesity-related health problems.

Even though we are aware of the cost both to our wallets and our health, many do not realize the cost to the environment that junk food adds. The land to raise livestock accounts for 30% of the earth's land use between grazing, pasture and fields of grain for feed. Thousands of acres of forest are cleared yearly to create pasture. The decimation of forest areas contributes directly to greenhouses gases, pollution and ultimately climate change. Cows alone produce more greenhouse gas each year than 22 million cars. Those numbers can make you seriously reconsider eating all those hamburgers.

The Bottom Line
Bad habits over the last decade have caused a 69% decline in the health of Americans. Nearly 30% of the U.S. population is considered obese, almost 20% of Americans smoke and 10% of the population has diabetes.

Not all bad habits are bad for you. In fact, many reports show that having a glass of wine a day is good for you. As with all things, moderation is the key. If Americans only ate junk food once a week, quit smoking and drank spirits occasionally, they could save not only a significant amount of money, but they could also increase their chances of a healthy future.

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