Smoking is bad for you: That’s no surprise. But have you thought about what smoking does to your wallet? The financial burden goes well beyond just the cost of cigarettes themselves—smokers also pay higher health insurance premiums, bear higher medical and dental costs, and can’t take advantage of homeowners’ insurance credit. Take a closer look at both the financial costs and health risks of smoking, and get expert advice and resources on how to kick this expensive addiction.
How Much Would You Save if You Quit?
Smoking sucks money out of bank accounts in multiple ways, but the most obvious is the one that occurs regularly: when you go to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes. Use the calculator below to see how much money you spend on cigarettes.
How much am I spending on
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Why Quit?: The Financial Costs of Smoking
When it comes to quitting, most people do it for health reasons. While that is a good enough reason to quit, the financial costs of smoking can also be a strong motivator. Take a look at some of the common costs smokers have to pay – you may be surprised to see just how much you could be saving if you stopped smoking.
Tobacco users can legally be charged more when it comes to insurance premiums, because there’s overwhelming evidence that they’re far likelier than nonsmokers to have catastrophic health problems that cost their insurers money. The Tobacco Control Legal Consortium points out that under the Affordable Care Act, smokers can be charged up to 50 percent more for premiums. Employers who provide health insurance can also penalize employees who don’t take advantage of smoking cessation programs.
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, smoking raises life insurance premiums, given the increased risk of death due to things like heart disease and cancer. Other types of insurance also cost more for smokers, such as homeowner’s insurance. About five percent of house fires are smoking-related, and they cause the most fatalities, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Smokers could save about 10 percent on premiums if they stopped lighting up, according to information from the University of New Hampshire.
Beyond the risk of fire, smoking in the home can also make it hard to sell a house for a good price. Buyers are often worried about “thirdhand smoke,” a term used to describe the pollutants that remain even long after a house has been cleaned. Although the health effects are still being studied, a 2011 study in Environmental Health Perspectives showed that real estate agents report lower prices for homes of smokers. And while people can replace carpets and other surfaces affected by smoke, that too costs money.
A 2008 California study published in the journal Tobacco Induced Diseases revealed that cars owned by smokers were put up for sale at asking prices 7 to 9 percent lower than cars owned by nonsmokers. The study authors suggested this is because “smoking tobacco in a car can pollute the microenvironment of the car with residual SHS [secondhand smoke].”
Research by Gallup in 2013 found that smokers missed half a week of work more than their nonsmoking colleagues each year. Moreover, with smoke breaks costing employers more than $3,000 a year per employee (in addition to increased healthcare costs), there may be a built-in bias against hiring workers who smoke, which shrinks the pool of available jobs.
Smokers are more likely to have persistent oral health problems that are simply too expensive to fix, so they let them slide, studies show. Of smokers with dental problems, 56 percent not been to the dentist in the preceding six months due to the cost, according to the Centers for Disease Control, compared to 35 percent of people who had never smoked.
Some studies put the financial losses of smoking in the millions. While the actual numbers are arguable, the underlying point is not: Every dollar spent on cigarettes or cigarette-related expenses is a dollar that could have been saved. In other words, smoking is a bad investment.
Why Quit?: The Health Risks of Smoking
Smoking can lead to many different health issues. For example, most people know it can cause lung cancer, but that isn’t the only concern.
Health Risks of Smoking
It’s well-known that smoking leads to cancer, but what some people may not know is that lung cancer isn’t the only risk—smoking has been linked to some 15 different types of cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if nobody in the U.S. smoked, the number of cancer deaths would drop by a third.
Emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma are all diseases in which not enough air gets to the lungs. Together, these diseases are referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition usually caused by smoking, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
There are links between mothers’ smoking and babies being born prematurely, and with low birth weights, tissue damage or birth defects. In addition, babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy or after the birth are three times as likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The risks continue: as these children get older, they have higher rates of respiratory diseases than their peers. Even mothers who are careful not to smoke in front of their babies should remember that nicotine is a drug that can be passed along through breast milk. And those who do smoke in front of their kids may inadvertently encourage them to pick up the habit.
Oral health, in general, is a big problem for smokers—and it goes beyond having bad breath. People who smoke often have more mouth sores, ulcers and incidents of gum disease than their nonsmoking peers.
Smoking leads to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, where the body attacks itself instead of viruses and other outside threats. The immune system also guards against cancers, so when it’s not working optimally, people are more prone to develop cancer.
Smoking is bad for your organs—and that includes the brain. Smokers suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s at twice the rate of nonsmokers, according to this study.
The Health Benefits of Quitting
In addition to saving money, quitting can result in several health benefits, even just within the first half hour. Ex-smokers can look forward to the following health rewards:
- Your heart rate and blood pressure decrease
- The carbon monoxide level in your blood becomes normal
- Your risk of heart attack decreases
- Your lung function starts to improve
- Coughing and shortness of breath decrease
- Your risk of stroke decreases and is comparable to a nonsmoker’s
- Your lung cancer death rate is approximately half that of a smoker’s
- Your risk of other cancers (mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney and pancreas) decreases
- Your risk of coronary heart disease decreases to that of a nonsmoker’s
Expert Q&A: Tips on How to Successfully Quit
You’re probably convinced that quitting smoking is a good move for your health and your finances, and you may even be motivated to quit. But before you stop—whether gradually or cold turkey—it’s beneficial to look at what strategies can help you successfully stop smoking for good. In the following section, experts share proven strategies and advice for kicking the habit permanently. (All excerpts are taken from phone and email interviews; in some cases, the questions have been paraphrased or added after the interview to provide context.)
How to Prepare
Many resources and apps for people trying to quit devote entire sections to just getting ready. Some people count down to their quit day, while others plan how to tell others they are quitting. According to Dr. Clara Bradizza, “Usually, people have to make multiple quit attempts before they’re successful.” That’s where proper preparation comes in. The difference between successfully quitting and just stopping temporarily begins before you put out your last cigarette.
Once someone is ready to quit, what are some tips or strategies for preparing?
It’s always good to set a quit date, usually a few weeks ahead, so you can prepare for it. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach that teaches people skills to help with quitting and works very well, especially when done in conjunction with certain medications. For example, in CBT, we have people monitor their triggers (i.e., thoughts, emotions, situations) so they can be more aware of what seems to generate the urge to smoke. We also have people start ‘nicotine fading’ by gradually decreasing the number of cigarettes smoked per day over a course of a few weeks leading to the quit date. In addition, we have people switch brands to ones with lower nicotine amounts and to flavors they find less appealing. We also have people begin to limit where they smoke, and to remove all smoking-related paraphernalia. Finally, we teach people new ways to cope with emotions (e.g., muscle relaxation, deep breathing) and also to start building a support network.
What are things to keep in mind to mentally prepare for this challenge?
It’s very important to learn to catch your thoughts and find ways to challenge them. We call these automatic negative thoughts, because they can occur without us consciously being aware of them, but can influence our moods and behaviors. We need to learn to identify them (e.g., you can have just one puff, you’ll never make it) and combat them (e.g., one puff will lead to another, just take it one day at a time). It’s important to note that while often these thoughts are initially intense, they do diminish over time and become progressively easier to dismiss. You can also focus on the benefits of quitting.
How else can people prepare?
Smokers really need to tell their family and friends that they’re going to quit, and explain that they need their support. Smokers should have people in their support systems check in from time to time, and they should ask for extra understanding (e.g., ‘please understand if I’m in a bad mood because I’m trying to quit,’ and ‘I’m having these cravings; please don’t take it personally.’).
Conquering ‘Quit Day’
The ultimate challenge begins on “Quit Day,” when smokers must resolve to keep their willpower up for weeks, even months. This involves the use of multiple strategies and a shift in lifestyle in order to break old habits and instill new ones. Quitting, however, isn’t always a linear process, and sometimes people slip. Rather than using that as an invitation to give up, Dr. Rego reminds quitters to stay positive: “Treat slips as learning opportunities and get back on track as soon as possible.”
What are some strategies people should use when they want to quit smoking?
What’s helpful for a lot of individuals is getting a nicotine replacement — a pharmacal therapy. For most people that’s a patch. A nicotine patch provides longer-term, slow-release nicotine. And individuals who supplement that with a slower-acting nicotine like the gum, the lozenge, or the nasal spray — people who combine those two forms of pharmacal therapy — have a much better chance of quitting than people who go without any assistance.
What should people do if that doesn’t work?
I think once people have tried that and not been successful, it’s really important to see your doctor and consider a different kind of pharmacal therapy. The two most popular ones are Chantix (Varenicline) and also Bupropion. Those two have the greatest evidence of being able to assist people with stopping smoking, particularly when they’re combined with some form of behavioral counseling.
Once a smoker has started the process, what can s/he do to stay on track?
One thing we give [support group members] is a ‘pack wrap.’ It’s a log that goes around their cigarette pack, and every time they either have an urge or they actually light up a cigarette, they’re supposed to record what they were doing and why they felt they got the urge. We hope they can look back at that log and reach conclusions as to ‘Why did I get that urge?’ and ‘What could I do differently to change that routine?’ So, if they decide they want to have a cigarette every time they talk on the phone, maybe they could get a pen and draw pictures instead—something to break the association of having that cigarette and that hand-to-mouth behavior.
Does quitting smoking lead to depression?
Quitting can raise negative feelings — anger, frustration, upset, irritability — but it’s not necessarily full-blown depression. When we think of depression, it’s a diagnosis [in which] people need to meet a lot of different criteria. But smokers should prepare themselves to deal with those negative effects when they quit. That’s where the nicotine replacement and the medications can help. They reduce the negative emotion around quitting so people can have a chance to be more successful.
How can support groups help people trying to quit smoking?
They give encouragement and support from people who are going through the same thing, so people know they’re not alone, and that what they’re feeling really isn’t ‘just me.’ They know that other people are also going to have those urges and are going to have relapses. We’re hoping they can develop friendships with each other that can potentially be an additional form of support.
What else can people do to succeed?
You want to change your routine. You want to exercise. You want to eat healthy. If you want to try to relax more, maybe join a yoga class. You’re getting the benefits of the exercise and the stretching, and you also have the benefit that you’ve changed up your routine. You’re staying busy.
Being smoke-free over the long term can be difficult, and there’s no telling when the urge to smoke might strike. “A lot of people relapse in response to negative emotions — frustration, anger, sadness,” says Dr. Bradizza. “Learning to manage those emotions, learning to manage those cravings and learning effective coping strategies are all very important.” To help you stay on the right track, try the following coping mechanisms:
Specific locations, situations or even the time of day can trigger a craving. Being aware of these things can help you avoid or at least limit the urge to smoke. Create a list of potential triggers and any time you feel like smoking, make a note of how you were feeling and why you wanted to smoke. Understanding such feelings and what causes them can help you better manage emotions so that you can stay strong.
Ms. Charbonneau teaches her patients what she calls the 4 D’s: deep breaths, drink water, do something and delay. “Usually, a craving will last between 10 and 20 minutes,” she says, “so if you delay having that cigarette and let that craving pass, then you’re good to go until you get the next craving.”
For some, relaxing may just increase the urge. If that’s the case, stay busy – pick up a new hobby, exercise, or spend more quality time with friends and family to keep your mind off smoking. Keeping your hands busy can also help. If the “feeling” of smoking is your thing, try keeping items nearby that can replace the feeling of having a cigarette in your hand, such as a pen or a healthy snack like carrots.
As a way to stay busy, you might want to try getting organized. Tackle an organization project that you might have been putting off, such cleaning out your closet, garage or office space. This way you’re keeping yourself distracted and being productive at the same time.
Quitting isn’t going to be easy and accepting that early on can help you keep a positive attitude. There will definitely be days that are harder than others and even days when it seems impossible, but don’t let that discourage you. Give yourself a pep talk when things are tough and if that doesn’t work, reach out to a friend or family member for some positive reinforcement.
Quitting is the ultimate goal, but there are several smaller goals along the way. Don’t forget to celebrate those small victories because each one is a step closer to becoming an ex-smoker. For example, if you’ve been smoke-free for one week, use the money you saved by not buying cigarettes to buy yourself a small treat or set aside some time to do something you really love or that makes you feel good. Rewarding yourself also helps you stay motivated to keep going.
The Facts About E-Cigarettes and Quitting
Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, simulate the act of tobacco smoking by heating up a liquid mixed with nicotine and other flavors that is then inhaled as a vapor. The use of e-cigarettes has increased significantly in recent years, primarily because they have been marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and also as a way to quit conventional smoking. These claims, however, have yet to be scientifically proven. Take a look at some of the common beliefs about e-cigarettes and quitting and get the real facts.
Belief: E-cigarettes are saferThe Truth:
According to the American Lung Association, there are nearly 500 different brands of e-cigarettes on the market today and none of them have been thoroughly evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, which means it’s difficult to say what’s in them. Some studies have found carcinogens and toxic elements such formaldehyde and acetaldehyde and even toxic metal nanoparticles, notes the National Institute on Drug Abuse. E-cigarettes have also gone unregulated for a long time, which means there aren’t any requirements about ingredient use and disclosure. In May 2016, however, the FDA announced a final decision that would begin regulating the sale of e-cigarettes, a rule that’s been more than two years in the making. In addition to banning sales to minors, restrictions mandate that e-cigarettes must have a warning that they contain nicotine, which is addictive.
Belief: E-cigarettes don’t have nicotineThe Truth:
E-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, but almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine from tobacco plants; the exact amount, however, has yet to be confirmed. The American Lung Association noted that a 2014 study found wide-ranging levels of the addictive substance in e-cigarettes.
Belief: People who use e-cigarettes use them the same way they would traditional cigarettesThe Truth:
According to 2015 research conducted by UC Riverside cell biology professor Prue Talbot, e-cigarette smokers tended to take longer and more frequent puffs than traditional cigarette smokers, which means these smokers inhale a larger puff volume.
Belief: E-cigarettes can help people quit smokingThe Truth:
E-cigarettes are often promoted as a way to stop smoking. In fact, in April 2016, BBC reported that UK doctors presented “resounding evidence” that e-cigarettes can be an effective tool for smoking cessation. Debates over this argument still continue in the U.S., however, and currently, the FDA has not approved e-cigarettes for cessation.
Many experts point out that research results are inconclusive: some have demonstrated a benefit between e-cigarettes and quitting, while others have demonstrated no benefit at all. Additionally, there are thousands of different flavors of e-cigarettes, which make them more appealing. In fact, according to NPR, some experts have expressed concerns that e-cigarettes may be creating a new generation of smoking addicts. Dr. Bradizza notes, “It’s going to take more research evidence to determine whether it is in fact helpful.”
Tips from Real Smokers
Emily McComb is a Seattle-based art historian and mother of two. She explains the choice she made to quit smoking before trying to get pregnant.
Emily McComb is a Seattle-based art historian and mother of two. She explains the choice she made to quit smoking before trying to get pregnant.
EmilyI decided to quit in March of 2009, nearly 15 years after I started smoking. I knew that I wanted to have kids one day and I didn’t want to have to go through the quitting process while pregnant. I knew people who had to smoke in early pregnancy because the risk of quitting cold turkey and experiencing withdrawal was potentially more harmful to the fetus than smoking was. The idea that I could be pregnant and smoking was too much for me. So, one night, I went out on the front porch and smoked my last cigarette. I walked into the house, surrendered what remained of my pack, and that was the end. I have never smoked again, not even one drag. I know that if I do I will be a regular smoker again in an instant.
EmilyThe hardest part of quitting smoking was that I loved it. So many people say that they don’t enjoy it but that they find it too hard to quit. But I loved it. I loved the social part, I loved the physical aspect — not only the feeling I experienced when smoking but the act of stepping away from what I was doing and going outside. I missed smoking so much, long after my body stopped experiencing any kind of withdrawal. I find that even now, more than seven years later, I am nostalgic for it. I won’t smoke again, but there are still days I miss it.
EmilyI only ever honestly tried to quit once. There were times I told people I was quitting but I knew I wasn’t being honest. I got sick once and really couldn’t smoke for about a week. I thought maybe I’d keep it going, but the reality was that I didn’t want to quit. If I’m being honest, I never really did want to quit. I just wanted a healthy baby more than I wanted to smoke, so I made a choice.
EmilyThe advice piece is so tricky. What worked for me won’t necessarily work for someone else. But here is what I would say: You only have to not smoke that next cigarette. If you can break it down to its most basic part, it is just that next one. Don’t think about never smoking again — think about just not smoking that next one. That got me through many cravings and tough social situations. It still does.
Rachel, who prefers not to use her last name, is a small business owner. She shares why she quit smoking over 14 years ago.
RachelI smoked my first cigarette in third grade in the bathroom at school. By the time I was in middle school I was a regular smoker. I think I started so that I could feel all grown up.
RachelI decided to quit when I was 24 and had a miscarriage. I felt very guilty and blamed smoking for the loss of that baby.
RachelIt was like losing a part of my identity. I had smoked for so long I didn’t know who I was without it.
RachelIf you are going to quit smoking, never take another puff. For me, replacement products like patches and gum only prolonged the agony of nicotine withdrawal. We really just need to know that it gets better every single day. The cravings eventually slow down, and you don’t have that intense urge after a while. In the beginning, if you think that day may never come, just hold on tight. I was also a part of an online support group that was vital in helping me through each and every day.
Jason Malone is an actor and comedian. He has been smoking for nine years. He explains his recent decision to quit.
JasonI started smoking when I was 25. I lived with a heavy smoker and a casual smoker, and I picked up the habit while hanging out on our front porch.
JasonI decided to quit last week. I was cast in a play, and I discovered my vocal strength was really weak. It was a bit of a wake-up call.
JasonThe hardest thing about quitting will be my girlfriend, who is a heavy smoker. I enjoy having a cigarette with her while we talk outside.
JasonIf you can really take it one day at a time, it doesn’t overwhelm you as much.
Resources and Support
Smoking & Cessation Resources
The CDC’s comprehensive “Quit Guide” is broken into 14 sections, including depression, medications and cravings. Information is organized so that users can easily find the specific information they’re looking for
This page from the National Cancer Institute outlines various triggers smokers encounter throughout the day, and identifies ways to combat them.
African Americans have been specifically targeted by cigarette companies for years. This guide, produced with the guidance of black community groups, lays out the reasons for quitting and offers tactics for staying smoke-free.
Smokefree.gov is a valuable manual for quitting smoking, taking users through the process with information on mood management and coping mechanisms, ways to quit, and how to stay healthy overall. Users can personalize the experience by seeing information relevant to their stage in the quitting process. The website also maintains four related sites for veterans, women, teenagers, and Spanish speakers.
This nonprofit launched in 1998 after a massive settlement agreement with cigarette manufacturers, and is aimed at reducing smoking in younger generations. The website offers information on current research and news about the latest cessation campaigns.
Although no longer updated, the National Tobacco Cessation Collaborative’s website includes a tool that remains useful: a comparison of different quitting methods in terms of cost, effectiveness and availability.
National Programs & Services
A service of Truth Initiative, Become an EX helps smokers quit by helping them create a customized plan to quit, and by putting them in touch with other people doing the same.
This free online chat service connects people trying to quit with a trained counselor. It operates weekdays from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Ex-smokers and smokers at all stages of quitting can provide and receive encouragement on this social network. The online format makes it ideal for people combatting cravings, because they can get an immediate response from someone who understands the feeling. It’s also available as an iPhone app.
Two national hotlines are available for smokers looking to quit. 1-800-QUIT-NOW routes callers to their home state’s “quitline.” At 1-877-44U-QUIT, National Cancer Institute counselors man the phones every weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. to answer questions for people looking to quit.
This free Android app translates each cigarette not smoked into a dollar figure, and offers examples of things users can now afford. It also encourages accountability by connecting users to other people making purchasing goals.
This free iOS app ($2.99 to unlock advanced features) is an audio hypnosis track people can listen to for several weeks. By listening to it multiple times, the suggestions take hold and help some people fight withdrawals.
Developed by the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute, QuitGuide is a free iOS and Android app that allows users to log days when they didn’t smoke—as well as days when they slipped—so they can use the data to see what activities triggered the setbacks.
Also created by the Tobacco Control Research Branch at the National Cancer Institute, quitSTART is a free iOS and Android app specifically designed for teenagers. A couple of features help this tool stand out for all users, though, including games to distract smokers.
A free app available for both iPhone and Android devices, Smoke Free motivates people by showing them their progress, such as how much money they’ve saved and specific ways their health has improved since they’ve quit.
Some people respond to an approach that ties smoking to their finances. This app uses an envelope system of budgeting, so that a specific amount of money is designated for cigarettes. Once it’s gone, users must find money from somewhere else if they’re going to continue the habit. YNAB is a Web-based application with downloads for both iOS and Android phones. It costs $5 a month or $50 for a year.