Not that smokers walk around justifying their habit as a sound financial decision, but when you break down the numbers, it’s almost as painful as that perpetual hacking cough.
WalletHub, the personal finance website that researches and ranks everything from hotel rewards programs to best cities to keep your New Year’s resolution, broke down how much it cost the average smoker over their lifetime in each state. And the answers are uglier than an eighth-grade health class slide of a black lung.
Nationwide averages were bleak, but New York fared almost worst of all where the average smoker loses $2,851,475 over their lifetime. New York was only beaten out by Connecticut, where smokers lose $2,854,614.
Georgia, where you can smell the cloud of nicotine from Florida, had smokers who lost the least at $1,396,882 — though that shouldn’t encourage you to pick up the habit if you hail from Georgia. You can see the whole staggering breakdown here.
“Now hold on,” you might say. “I won’t even make $2.8 million in my lifetime, and with New York City rents I’d be lucky if I could spend 2.8 thousand dollars on cigarettes!”
Astronomical city taxes aside, this may be true. But the study didn’t just factor in how much money you spend on cancer-sticks.
It took a look at several factors, including healthcare cost, income lost, other costs like increased homeowners and health insurance. Increased cost of dry cleaning, hair washing, lost security deposits and rental car fees were not, to our knowledge, factored in — though they probably should have been.
The biggest cost across all states was income opportunity cost, where WalletHub took the money a smoker spends on all other costs, and invests it in the stock market over the same period. Taking the historical average market return rate for the S&P 500, minus the inflation rate during the same time period, you find the biggest single cost to n smoker over his or her lifetime. And though there’s no guarantee — and frankly, it’s pretty unlikely — that a financially savvy smoker would have invested all that money in the market instead of, say, beer, it’s still a shocking number to see.
New Yorkers fared the worst here, losing out on over $2.1 million in stock earnings. They also spent the most out-of-pocket on smoking, tallying over $194,000 over their lifetime. They’ll also spend over $240,000 in insurance, lose about $256,000 in income, and $14,600 in other costs.
That’s not to say you’d be summering on the Cote D’Azur if you stopped smoking and put all that money in the stock market. It’s just that in an age where every third headline seems to tell millennials they’ll never own a home or retire, giving up smoking might be a step in a good financial direction. Either way, putting this study on the back of Marlboro packs might be more effective than the health warnings.