On the heels of Tobacco-Free Awareness Week reminding Americans of the societal and economic costs of smoking, which totals more than $320 billion a year and rising, the personal finance website WalletHub recently released a state-by-state report focusing on the true cost of smoking.
For North Carolinians, the report is bitter-sweet. Tar Heel smokers ranked fifth-best in overall costs among the country’s 50 states and District of Columbia, but those costs averaged more than $1.26 million per smoker over the course of a lifetime.
“Smoking cannot only ruin your health, but it can also burn a nasty hole through your wallet, said Richie Bernardo, a personal finance writer at WalletHub. “Tobacco use accounts for nearly half a million premature deaths in the U.S. each year and is the leading cause of lung cancer, according to the American Lung Association.”
In the report, WalletHub’s analysts calculated the potential monetary losses — including the cumulative cost of a cigarette pack per day over several decades, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs — brought on by smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
Calculating costs over a lifetime, North Carolina ranked No. 4 in out-of-pocket costs per smoker at $88,570. The state also ranked No. 4 in financial opportunity cost per smoker at $837,570. In categories where North Carolina fell out of the top 10, the state was No. 11 in income loss per smoker at $190,507; ranked No. 13 in health-care costs per smoker at $136,258; and was No. 23 other costs per smoker at $10,469.
For lifetime total-cost comparison to neighboring states: Tennessee was No. 7 overall with a $1.27 million cost per smoker; South Carolina was No. 8 at $1.29 million; and Virginia is No. 13 at $1.36 million.
The No. state overall for total cost is Louisiana at $1.23 million. Coming in as the worst state in overall lifetime cost per smoker is the state of New York at $2.46 million.
But smokers aren’t the only ones to incur costs directly related to smoking. Even those around tobacco smokers are affected by the harmful repercussions of smokers.
Since 1964, according to the WalletHub study, smoking-related illnesses have claimed 20 million lives in the U.S., 2.5 million of which belonged to nonsmokers who developed diseases merely from secondhand-smoke exposure.
“However, the economic and societal costs of smoking-related issues are just as staggering,” Bernardo said. “Every year, Americans collectively spend a total of $326 billion, including nearly $170 billion in direct health-care costs and more than $156 billion in lost productivity due to premature death and exposure to secondhand smoke. Unfortunately, some people will have to pay more depending on the state in which they live.”
For example, the op 10 states for most expensive tobacco products are: New York, Massachusetts, Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Washington, New Jersey and District of Columbia.
Want to quit?
According to John G. Spangler, professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, putting together a reasonable plan is key to quitting the habit.
“Strong scientific evidence shows that using medication is one of the best ways to quit smoking; medications double or triple your success…” he said. “(But) making a plan is also crucial. Set a quit date — it should be within the next week so that you will capitalize on your current motivation. Write it down on your calendar; tell everyone.”
Spangler added that getting support from family and friends is paramount. He also said throwing away all tobacco products is important, because having those “just in case (tobacco products) makes it too easy to reach for them when the going gets tough.”
Spangler said using the 1-800-QUITNOW telephone number will give those wishing to quit addition assistance.
He also warned about the use of e-cigarettes.
“We do not know the long-term problems that might be associated with using e-cigs,” Spangler said. “Also, some e-cigs have contaminants in them.
“On the other hand, some studies have shown (e-cigs) might help some people quit, and some smokers have found that they are helpful. Like many things in life, you have to weigh the risks versus the benefits.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.