Don’t worry. I’m not even qualified to give you an analysis on the potentially fatal side effects of smoking, not to mention the social stigma. All I want to do is work out some numbers to demonstrate the ruinous cost of smoking. Before I run the numbers, I want to make a confession - I’m a smoker and I’m desperately trying to quit. I recognize I am an addict and no amount of preaching is going to stop that. It’s been almost forty years since I took my first drag and I still can’t manage to get through the day without lighting up.
But lately, I’ve become very concerned with the amount of money I spend on my addiction. I’ve paid as much as eight dollars for a pack and I keep telling myself that there is no way in hell I’ll ever pay ten dollars. Of course, I made that vow when cigarettes where creeping up to three bucks and I repeated that vow with utmost sincerity when it hit the five dollar mark.
When I started smoking, a pack of cigarettes was around 40 cents - which was 25% of the prevailing minimum wage. I remember driving to Florida and picking up cartons of cigarettes for two bucks. Until the early eighties, smoking was a bad habit but it was a cheap bad habit. Now the minimum wage will barely score you a single pack. That means that all things considered, the increase in the price of cigarettes has exceeded inflation by a factor of a few hundred percentage points. Of course, it all depends on which state you smoke in. A pack that costs eight dollars in New York can be had for five dollars in Delaware. But still, it's far more expensive than it used to be.
We can argue till we’re blue in the face about the punitive federal and state taxes that are levied against smokers - but where will that get you and what are you going to do about it - stop smoking to protest excessive taxation or toss a carton of cigarettes in the Boston Harbor?
I can’t believe I still smoke. I mean you can get a steak cheaper than the price of a pack. The cigarettes I light up on my way to work are more expensive than the gas I burn, and gas is expensive. If you add it up, the amount of money you spend on three or four cartons can just as easily be spent snagging a discounted coast-to-coast round trip ticket. I currently spend close to $3,000 a year on my habit and if the government has its way, I’ll probably have to cough up as much as $5000.
I could have easily purchased a nice motorcycle for that kind of money. And I know I’ll have to earn quite a bit more to replace the money that went up in smoke. If my tobacco addiction starts costing my $5000 a year, I’d have to get a $7,000 raise to compensate for the earnings I wasted on my habit.
I must be out of my mind. Three or four years of non-smoking would save me enough money for a down payment on a rental property. Can you believe that? With four decades of smoking in my rear view mirror, I might as well have paid cash for a triplex and torched it to the ground.
This has to be the most gut wrenching article I’ve ever written because I just remembered something. My ex-wife used to smoke. For all the money we wasted getting our nicotine fix, we could have had a small apartment building to argue over in the divorce. On the bright side, we ended up having a very civil separation because our phantom rental property went up in smoke.
Then there are all the miscellaneous costs you incur when you don’t get a handle on your addiction. You know - the extra premiums for health insurance and the raise you don’t get because the boss noticed you took too many smoking breaks. And when you go to sell your car, the buyer sniffs the smoke and asks for a huge discount on account of the burn marks on the upholstery that you never bothered to notice.
To make matters worse, they tax smokers when they die because they’re the first to kick the bucket. Think about it - if you don’t as live as long - you end up collecting less social security and fewer pension checks. No wonder why the government keeps cigarettes legal, we are the only ones that pencil out for Social Security. If the world was a fair place, they’d at least have the decency to give smokers a retirement premium because they’re not going to be retired for that long.
I’m the last man on the planet entitled to preach on the ill effects of smoking. I’ve tried everything - the patches - the gums - blood transfusions - radical surgery. My doctor says that I might have a change of heart when I get the bill for my first stroke. He always likes to give me incentives to do the right thing.
Even if I never manage to go cold turkey, I hope you do and do it early in life. Take it from a veteran smoker, lighting up is financially ruinous. In my case, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
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