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Health & Wellness

The High Cost of Smoking

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Smoking can be harmful to every area of your life, damaging your health, hurting your finances, and even making you less welcome at gatherings of family and friends.

If you or someone you know needs incentive to give up cigarettes, consider this:

Smoking takes a very high toll on almost every aspect of your health. Even if you recognize that smoking is bad for your health, you might not realize just how harmful a habit it is. As the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts it, “cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ of the body’ and is “the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.” Smoking increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and lung cancerIt may also contribute to the development of eye diseases, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration; diabetes; bone health in women; poor gum health; and tooth loss.

Your smoking habit is a danger to the people closest to you. As the American Cancer Society points out on its website, exposure to secondhand smoke can be harmful in many ways. It contains more than 7,000 chemicals – the same that smokers inhale – including at least 70 that can cause cancer. Each year, in the U.S. alone, secondhand smoke is responsible for nearly 34,000 deaths from heart disease and more than 7,300 lung cancer deaths in non-smoking adults, according to the CDC. Moreover, it contributes to a number of serious health problems in children, including increases in bronchial infections and pneumonia, wheezing and coughing, and more severe and frequent asthma attacks.

The National Institute on Aging notes that exposure to secondhand smoke is especially dangerous for people who already have lung or heart disease and it can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, which is the unexplained death of a baby younger than one year old.

The real cost of smoking goes beyond the price of cigarettes. The financial impact of smoking adds up fast, wherever you live. According to the organization Tobacco Free Life, cigarettes are cheapest in the state of Virginia, about $5.25 a pack, and most expensive in New York (about $13 a pack). Assuming a one-pack-a-day habit over 50 years, that adds up to a lifetime cost of nearly $96,000 in Virginia, and more than $234,000 in New York.

And that’s just the starting point. The website looked at all the monetary losses associated with a smoking habit, including the lifetime cost of a pack-per-day habit, smoking-attributable health care and insurance costs, income losses, and the amount of money a person would have earned if they invested what they spent on cigarettes in the stock market instead. Their cost-per-person lifetime tally ranged from nearly $1.4 million in Georgia to over $2.8 million for residents of Connecticut. This includes out-of-pocket costs and the potential costs of lost opportunity (e.g., investing) for the individual as well as costs to health systems and employers.

Smoking may torch your job prospects. A recent study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that smokers remain unemployed longer than nonsmokers, and, when they do find jobs, they earn substantially less. The study showed that, after a year, only 27 percent of smokers had found jobs compared with 56 percent of nonsmokers. What’s more, among those who had been hired by the 12-month mark, smokers earned, on average, $5 less per hour than nonsmokers. The outcomes were similar even when researchers analyzed the data, controlling for factors such as age, education, general health, race, duration of unemployment, and criminal record.

 If you’re single, smoking can make dating a challenge. In a 2014 survey conducted by Pfizer and the dating website, nearly nine out of ten respondents said they prefer to date someone who doesn’t smoke, while 57 percent said smoking was an absolute dealbreaker.

The good news: You are likely to realize health benefits whenever you quit smoking, even in your 60s, 70s, or beyond. For information, support, and strategy on how to quit, visit or

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