Most people know by now that smoking is unhealthy. Ads designed to deter smoking are everywhere, appealing to your health, your vanity, your pocketbook and even your parenting instincts. These ads are so commonplace that smokers and non-smokers alike have become accustomed to them, resulting in increasingly dire tactics by marketers to create more shocking ads. Why are they trying so hard? Because smoking is still a national health issue—it remains one of the leading causes of death and illness in the country. Here’s a look at what smoking truly costs.
Take your typical pack-a-day American smoker, who pays $7 on average for a pack of cigarettes. In a year, this smoker will spend more than $2,500 on tobacco products. That’s just an average, though. In New York, a pack costs an average of $14.50, so a New Yorker who smokes will pay more than $5,000 per year.
This unnecessary expense can really set a family back. In fact, that kind of money can pay for a small family’s health insurance or local transportation costs for a year. Over ten years, the money saved on smoking could put a child through school or a new car in your driveway.
Of course, the cost of smoking includes more than just the price of tobacco. It’s well known that smoking is harmful not just to the health of the smoker, but also to anyone who happens to inhale secondhand smoke. Health care costs directly related to smoking reached $133 billion last year in the U.S., and lost productivity due to smoking cost another $156 billion.
Cost to your health
To further understand the cost of smoking, it’s important to know what that $133 billion is spent on. You’re probably more familiar with the high-profile ailments associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, emphysema and stroke. After all, if nobody smoked, 1 in 3 cancer deaths would not happen. While these diseases are life-threatening and devastating, they do not even begin to encompass all of the disorders that have been linked to smoking.
Heart disease, a major cause of death in the U.S., is much worse among smokers than non-smokers, and can lead to heart attack and blood clots. Additionally, smoking can reduce fertility in men and women, and bone density in older women. Smoking is known to cause Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and tooth loss.
Even for non-smokers, the effects of tobacco can be devastating. Babies born to women who smoked during pregnancy are predisposed to orofacial clefts, low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. Secondhand smoke also has been linked to SIDS, and children whose parents smoke get sick more often than those who don’t. This is especially true for children who are asthmatic—kids with asthma have more severe and frequent attacks than those with non-smoking parents.
Add years to your life
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., costing 480,000 lives per year. Of course, this doesn’t deter everyone, as 20.6 percent of adult Americans still smoke. The fact is that, on average, those adults will die about 10 years younger than those who don’t smoke, according to the latest studies on longevity in smokers. The good news is that those who quit by age 35 can have those 10 years back, and those who quit by age 45 can have nine of them back. The return diminishes rapidly in the next decade, but smokers who quit before age 55 can still reclaim six of those years, research shows.
If you are a smoker who is considering quitting, there is no better time than now, and there are many federal and local assistance programs out there to help. You can call the national quit line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which will put you in touch with resources to stop smoking. Or, if you would feel more comfortable, talk to your primary care doctor to find the optimal smoking cessation program for you.
Lacie Glover writes for NerdWallet Health, a website that empowers consumers to find high quality, affordable health care and insurance.