When you hear “smoking kills”, does your mind go straight to your health?

Most people do, but there’s also your wallet, bank account, and retirement funds that get obliterated when you build up a habit of smoking cigarettes.

Have you ever thought about how much of your hard-earned cash ends up fading away with every cigarette you put out?

Take a few minutes today to do the math and determine if cigarettes are worth it to you. Could your money be put toward some better things in your life?

How do I figure out how much I spend on cigarettes each week, month, or year?

Photo / Canva.com

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has put together a nifty calculator called “How Much Will You Save?”. It takes less than a few minutes to determine how much you’ll save in days, weeks, months, or years by giving up cigarettes.

It’s important to take some time and run the numbers given your own personal data and habits. The cost of cigarettes varies significantly by state, with factors including federal cigarette tax, state taxes, cigarette brand prices, and retail location.

If you live (and buy cigarettes) in New York, Connecticut, or Rhode Island, you’re paying on average $10+ per pack of cigarettes.

Conversely, the cheapest states include Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri, whose average price is under $5.50 per pack. In 2021, the national average cost of cigarettes is $6.65 per pack.

How much does the cost of cigarettes add up over time?

The folks at WalletHub conducted a research study to determine “The Real Cost of Smoking by State”. Their data includes the “financial opportunity cost”, meaning if you chose to invest your money in the stock market instead of spending on cigarettes.

Based on data from the CDC, if you’re a pack-a-day smoker living in New York, your out-of-pocket cost for cigarettes alone is over $300 per month, or nearly $4,000 annually.

When you calculate the financial opportunity cost, this becomes over $40,000 annually, and quickly adds up to over $2 million during your lifetime!

This data assumes you redirect 100% of the money you saved by quitting cigarettes toward investment funds. Even if you took half the cash and spent it on immediate pleasures, wouldn’t it be awesome to have a cool $1 million in your investment account when you’re ready to retire?

You’d also live several years longer to enjoy the cash after you made the decision to give up cigarettes and improve your health.

The hidden cost of smoking cigarettes on your health

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, “the century-long epidemic of cigarette smoking has caused an enormous, avoidable public health catastrophe in the United States.” Smoking is still the “single largest cause of preventable disease and death”.

It’s no secret that smoking has been attributed to lung cancer, coronary heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and a host of other serious health conditions. Diagnosing and treating these conditions takes time and money.

For society as a whole, the direct medical cost attributed to cigarette smoking and tobacco exposure exceeds $130 billion annually.

Let’s continue the assumption that you’re a pack-a-day smoker living in New York. Given this criteria, your healthcare cost exceeds $5,000 annually. Instead of this money going toward your healthcare costs each year, you could:

  • Take a weeklong trip to Mexico
  • Buy new furniture for your home
  • Nearly fully fund your Roth IRA

If you started smoking at 21 (the legal age for someone to purchase tobacco products) and lived until you were 69 (the average age when a smoker dies), your lifetime healthcare cost would be nearly $250,000! This could add up to be:

  • The median price of a home in most states
  • The average cost of raising a child until they reach 17 years of age

You probably knew the impacts of your pack-a-day on your physical health, but it also does some serious damage to your financial health.

Hidden costs of smoking cigarettes -- no, not your health this time

You may even carry a body spray or air freshener to cover up your cigarette smoking. The lingering odor has a way of clinging onto everything, doesn’t it? If you opt for a cheaper body spray instead of a high-end cologne or perfume, you’re still spending at least $50-100 per year.

Maybe you buy a pack of tic-tacs, mouth spray, or gum alongside your pack-a-day habit. After all, who wants cigarette breath? This adds up to at least $75 per year!

If you smoke in your car and need to have it professionally cleaned in order to get rid of the cigarette stench, just once a month at $30 each time, this would add up to $360 per year.

With some quick math here, we’ve identified at least $500 in annual “hidden” costs for someone who smokes cigarettes regularly, regardless of how many packs per day or where you live.

It may not sound like much, but swapping out cigarettes will save you at least $500 in one year, and that’s not counting the cost of each pack! With this $500 alone, you could...

  • Book a roundtrip flight to Vegas
  • Buy a brand new TV
  • Get a new set of tires for your car
  • Enjoy a well-deserved shopping spree and get yourself some new clothes that won’t smell like cigarettes!

Are e-cigarettes less expensive than smoking cigarettes?

Woman refilling pod vape
Photo by Vaporesso / Unsplash

If you’ve recently picked up this trendy replacement as your new habit, you may be wondering: are e-cigs cheaper than smoking?

Reddit and Quora are filled with opinions. The ultimate answer is...it depends. What type of vape did you purchase? How much vapor are you purchasing, and at what price? How much vape juice do you use in a day, or per week?

Depending on the vape you buy, where you buy it from, replacing coils, pricy juice, and other factors...vaping costs can be nearly identical to your pack-a-day smoking habit.

Above and beyond these costs, you can learn more about vaping here.

What could you do with the cash you saved by quitting cigarettes?

Could you take a trip to Bora Bora? Absolutely! How about making serious progress toward saving for your wedding, home, or retirement? You bet.

The financial cost of smoking cigarettes can’t be ignored.

If you wanted to take the super-efficient and responsible route, you could invest the money you saved in the stock market.

The choice is yours, but what’s most important is that every time you buy a pack of cigarettes, there’s an opportunity cost for you to consider -- what could I have in my life instead?

How much does nicotine gum or lozenges cost? Is nicotine gum less expensive than smoking cigarettes?

Decide for yourself if making the switch to superior nicotine products is worth a try. You’ll find the overall cost is a fraction compared to buying a pack of cigarettes.

Whether you plan to quit completely, or just cut back on a pack-a-day habit, swapping cigarettes for nicotine replacement products will save you cash in the long run.

Now that you know all the cash you’ve been spending on cigarettes...what will you do with all the money you’re saving?