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The Real Cost Of Smoking


Imagine the scene in an alternate reality; a nervous entrepreneur climbs the stairs in Dragons Den and timidly approaches the seated investors, and explains his product to them.

It’s a herbal preparation that, when burning, will poison the user with hundreds of toxic chemicals, it will taste disgusting, make their clothes smell, yellow their teeth and fingers, make them short of breath, and foul tempered when they don’t have one.

The Dragons already look baffled. Go on, they say.

It will lead to heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema, pleurisy, strokes, macular degeneration, and impotency; contribute to Alzheimer’s and infertility.

The business opportunity, the entrepreneur tells them, is that these revolting things are addictive and once a person starts to use them, they find it almost impossible to stop.

Mercifully sanity prevails and the Dragons declare themselves out, the new invention called the ‘cigarette’ never makes it on to the market and the world is fitter, happier and healthier.

In our reality (where, it must be stated, Dragon’s Den star Duncan Bannatyne is a tireless anti tobacco campaigner), people are aware of the dangers of smoking and whilst there appears to be a slow decline in new smokers, the numbers of existing nicotine addicts is still huge.

It would be comforting to think that if cigarettes were invented now, they would never make it to market; the recent seventh anniversary of the smoking ban in pubs and restaurants has made life far more pleasant for non smokers enjoying a drink or a meal.

What could a smoker have saved in that time however? The one piece of arithmetic that every nicotine addict dreads is calculating the opportunity cost of their addiction, which in recent years has become a truly expensive vice.

According to The Guardian, the average price of a packet of cigarettes is £7.46 and assuming that the average smoker lights up twenty times a day, the cost over a year will be £2,723, but a heavy smoker on 30 a day will be incinerating £4084 each year.

Not only are most heavy smokers ensuring that they won’t make it to retirement, the £2 – 4,000 a year that they are handing over to tobacco companies could have made that retirement very comfortable.

Assuming that on cash invested a meager 2 percent interest is available; two decades of smoking 30 a day at today’s prices will deprive a smoker of a potential £100,230.92.

For a smoker with 20 years of working life left (which is always a big if) the benefit of giving up today could be a lump sum large enough to pay off an existing mortgage or buy a second holiday property.

The figures quoted above would be enough to pay for a top of the range Jaguar XKRS, a car almost exclusively driven by people having some fun with their nest eggs, or it would fund as much luxury travel as you can imagine.

Of course none of us can put a price on good health, this is something that is absolutely invaluable and it is always the best reason to stop smoking.

Insurers will always try to place a monetary value on good health and non smokers will attract lower health insurance and life insurance costs compared to their wheezy counterparts.

Finally, if you are an employer, it’s worth considering helping your staff to quit smoking, as recent research shows that the addiction costs the economy billions in lost productivity every year.


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