Great American Smokeout is November 20. Stop smoking, save money

I know why I'm writing this: I have a family member who I'd like to convince to quit smoking. Oh, I know how a post about giving up smoking will be received. The people who wish family or friends would quit smoking will read this and nod their heads. The smokers who are forwarded this email will probably hit delete immediately.

But I'll give it a shot, anyway. Maybe some smoker will accidentally read this and their common sense will prevail. You never know.

The Great American Smokeout officially began in 1976. Every November since, the American Cancer Society has been promoting the event, with the idea that willing smokers will say, "You know what? I'm quitting today." And then if all goes as planned, they will quit. Or at least they'll give it a serious shot. This year's event is on November 20.

We all know that smoking is like blindfolding your lungs and sending them down a mountain on skis. Maybe the lungs will ski without any problems for awhile, but eventually there's going to be trouble. The lungs are going to hit a tree, collide into another skier or go sailing off the mountain.

(OK, that might be one of the weirdest, dumbest anti-smoking analogies every written, but this isn't exactly the first anti-smoking diatribe ever written. I'm pretty sure that everything clever has already been taken.)

So we know smoking is unhealthy. But in these perilous economic times, if you can't give up smoking for your health, fine, but what about doing it for your wallet?

WalletPop blogger Barbara Bartlein made a very good case a couple months ago that smoking was lousy for your financial health, but she was coming from the point of view of a former smoker and talked a lot about how smoking is bad for one's career (i.e., frequently, employers are creating policies where they simply won't hire smokers, because of the costs toward health insurance and lost productivity during smoking breaks).

Anyway, I'd just like to throw out some numbers.

Average cost of a pack of cigarettes:$4.32 (not including taxes)
Average cost of cigarette habit, per week, if you smoke a pack a day: $30.24 (not including taxes)
Average cost of monthly cigarette habit, per month, if you smoke a pack a day: $129.60 (not including taxes)
Average cost of your yearly cigarette habit, per month, if you smoke a pack day: $1,576.80 (not including taxes)
Average cost of your yearly cigarette habit, over 30 years, if you smoke a pack a day: $47,304 (not including taxes)

Of course, the numbers--which I just compiled using a simple calculator--are only going with the average price of cigarettes. If you're smoking one of the higher-end cigarettes, those numbers are going to be worse, and my 30 year figure is hard to quantify. If you began smoking in 1978, cigarettes were cheaper, and so you probably haven't spent $47K on your cigarettes yet. If you just began smoking, the price of a smoke is just going to go up.

And I haven't even talked about the additional costs you're probably adding on, like buying gum to keep you going when you can't get to a cigarette and air-freshener. Obviously, if you have any smoking-related illnesses, you're shelling out money to get that treated, too.

Of course, if you're a smoker, you probably aren't reading this. But if you are, you might want to consider that these days particularly, it might be kind of nice to save an extra $1,500 a year.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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