Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Money may be incentive to give up nicotine habit

November 19, 2008

If improving your health isn’t enough of an incentive to finally kick the smoking habit, maybe money is.

Here’s how the cost of cigarettes adds up for someone who smokes a pack a day:

• At an average cost of $4.50 per pack, that person could instead buy a sub sandwich each day.

• In a week, that adds up to $31.50, or a nice dinner for two.

• In a month, it amounts to $135. Within two months, the person could purchase a Nintendo Wii system, which would give them something else to do with their hands.

• In a year, a person could save $1,643. That’s enough to buy the 50-inch plasma television advertised at Sears this week for $1,399.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Kansans spent approximately $657 million on cigarettes in 2007.

That’s a chunk of change, and smokers know it.

Aynsley Anderson, community education coordinator for Lawrence Memorial Hospital, teaches smoking cessation classes and said money can be a motivator.

“I almost always hear from at least somebody in the class who says, ‘I just can’t afford this anymore.’ When they think about the money that they are throwing away on it, it really is pretty staggering,” Anderson said.

She advises those who are trying to quit to put their savings from not buying cigarettes into a jar and watch it pile up.

“It’s just one of those expenses that they just eat — thinking ‘I have to have this,’” she said. “But it can be a significant amount of money and it’s not going to get any less.”

With the holidays approaching and the economy in the tank, are smokers willing to give up their expensive habit? Not necessarily.

Outside Aimee’s Cafe & Coffeehouse in downtown Lawrence, Dan Smoley, 64, was smoking a Camel cigarette. He spends about $4 per day on the habit that he picked up at age 17.

“I spend more than I should,” he said, blaming the state government for penalizing smokers with higher taxes. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius wants to increase the state cigarette tax another 50 cents to help pay for health care reforms. It would raise the tax from its current rate of 79 cents per pack to $1.29. The state’s current cigarette tax ranks 33rd in the nation and well below the national average of $1.19 per pack.

Still, Smoley is not happy about it, but he will pay more if necessary.

“I have no apologies for being addicted to caffeine, nicotine and gasoline,” he said. “I don’t want to live without any one of those three.”

He has no plans to participate Thursday in the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout, but supports those who do. It’s just not for him, he said.

It’s also not for 48-year-old Genelle Denneny, who started smoking at age 19.

“I just quit trying to quit because it was too depressing,” she said while puffing on a cigarette outside Liberty Hall with a co-worker.

Denneny said she spends about $30 per week on cigarettes.

“It’s a fairly expensive habit, but I don’t mind paying for it. I mean it’s a vice,” she said.

Smoking isn’t only costly for smokers, but everyone else as well.

In 1999, the American Cancer Society estimated heath care costs associated with each pack of cigarettes sold. Adjusted for inflation, $4.53 was spent on medical care because of smoking and $4.90 was lost in workplace productivity, for a total cost to society of $9.43 per pack.

Over the course of their lives, smokers and former smokers generate an estimated $501 billion in excess health care costs nationwide. Tobacco costs Medicare more than $10 billion per year.

“Quitting tobacco is good for your health and your wallet,” said Candace Ayars, director of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s Tobacco Use Prevention Program. “This is an especially good time to quit, as the dropping temperatures make outdoor smoke breaks more uncomfortable and money saved during these trying economic times can help alleviate household budget stresses around the holidays.”

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