We know that smoking may cost you your life, but did you know that it'll also cost you upwards of $1 million over your lifetime? Just think how many fancy vacations, or other neat experiences, that kind of money could buy you.
The figures come from WalletHub, and include not just money wasted on tobacco, but also health care costs, lost income due to illness, and one rather odd (and somewhat inflationary) factor called Financial Opportunities Cost, which we'll get to in a second.
The results of the study are presented in two tables: one detailing costs per year, the other costs over a lifetime. Both tables can be sorted by state, with New York being the most costly state in which to be a smoker ($2.3 million spent over a lifetime), and Kentucky being the cheapest (only $1.1 million wasted).
The study imagines an adult who starts smoking at age 18, and gets through a pack a day. Our hypothetical smoker enjoys another 51 unhealthy years after this—the average smoker dies at 69 years old.
The most relevant cost, in terms of what you will actually spend on tobacco, is "Out-of-Pocket Costs Over a Lifetime." This also reflects the difference in tobacco prices across the U.S. A smoker in Kentucky will spend $88,794 over their lifetime, or $1,741 per year. Up in fancy New York, a smoker can expect to spend $194,341, or $3,811 per year, on their habit.
But the price of the tobacco itself is tiny compared to the other costs. For instance, that New York-based smoker can expect another $4,432 per year in health care alone, plus an extra $4,742 in lost income, based on the fact that smokers earn 20% less than non-smokers (8% of which is due directly to smoking). For our New York smoker, then, the total cost is around $676,000 over a lifetime.
So how do the study authors manage to slap a fine of up to $2.3 million on smokers? With the Financial Opportunities Cost, which assumes that a person invests their cigarette money in stocks instead of spending it on tobacco. That adds another $1,637,046 to the New York smoker's lost income, but it's hard to see this figure as much more than a way to inflate the statistics and make them seem more spectacular. But really, why bother? $676,000 is already a spectacular enough waste of money.
As a former smoker, I'm not sure any of this would have discouraged me from my habit. After all, us humans just don't think so long-term. If the threat of an early death isn't enough to make you stop, then how much effect can these figures really have? Besides, there's another way for our New York smoker to save themselves $287,417—move to Kentucky.
Thomas: I could buy a vacation home, send my kids and graddaughter to college and have money left over for retirement!
Too late! I'm still paying for smoking due to COPD. No going back! But it would be a lot more money if I had kept on smoking!