The true cost of smoking



Everyone knows that cigarettes are bad.  I’m not here to sound that alarm again.  This post is about the true costs of smoking, including not only the hard cash spent on a pack of cigarettes, but also the subsequent health-related costs and shortened life expectancy.

Based on data from the American Cancer Society, I estimate that smoking half a pack of cigarettes per day costs $78,500 every 10 years.  Imagine what that does to the savings of a lifetime smoker!

The numbers

Here’s how the numbers work.  The average cost of a pack of cigarettes is $6.50, but then there are associated indirect costs down the line.  Primarily: fewer minutes on this earth (worth about $20/pack according to this article) and smoking-related health expenses (another $10-$15 per pack).  And these are just the direct costs to yourself, not including the harm to society and loved ones.

So for the following calculations, I assumed that the $35.00 per pack future health expense savings couldn’t really be invested, while the $6.50 savings on a pack of cigarettes could be invested and grew at a real rate of 4% per year.  Crunching the numbers for a half a pack per day yields the following:

  • 10-Year NPV: $78,539
  • 10-Year ROI: 78,539%%
  • 10-Year Payback: 0.0 years


Don’t be fooled by the comparatively modest up-front costs of smoking; smoking is damn expensive.  The true costs are more than 6 times higher than the face value of a pack, close to $40 when it is all said and done, or about $2.00 per cigarette.

The good news for existing smokers, however, is that a lot of the health costs can be earned back by quitting early… these aren’t exactly full sunk costs.

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