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Saving Strategy: Quit Smoking

We all know that smoking is an expensive habit, costly to both your health and your hard-earned savings. At $10+ per package of cigarettes in Canada (or at least British Columbia), smoking can be a very expensive, yet extremely difficult habit to kick.  In British Columbia, 15% of the population smokes despite it being the lowest percentage of people in Canada.

The benefits of smoking cessation are numerous. Fewer wrinkles, no yellow stain on your teeth or fingers, and no smoker’s cough. In addition to the more cosmetic reasons to quit smoking, there are important physiological changes that happen after you quit smoking too.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, after two weeks to three months of quitting smoking, your lung function improves by 30%. After one year, your chances of having a heart attack due to smoking is cut in half. After 10 years, your chances of having lung cancer due to smoking is also cut in half.

They say that nicotine is more addictive than illicit drugs like heroin (source: CDC). On average, it takes a cigarette smoking individual seven attempts to quit smoking for good.

Smoking is Expensive

Smoking is indeed a very expensive habit. It’s even worse than the latte factor.

For example, if you smoke a pack per day, and each pack of cigarettes is $10, you’ll be spending:

  • $70 on a weekly basis
  • $300 on a monthly basis
  • $3650 on an annual basis
  • in five years, this will cost you a total of $18,250.

This does not even include the opportunity cost wasted if you invested your money instead in a high interest savings account and accounted for compound interest.

Strategies to Quit

Realizing just how much money is being spent on a habit that the tobacco companies are profiting from is an important first step to quit. Thinking about how you would rather spend that money is important too, in order to reward yourself for quitting.

Here are some other strategies to quit

  • Write the pros and cons to quitting down – This will help you bring to consciousness what has been in the subconscious.
  • Set a quit date (and write it down)- Writing it down is the first step to behavior and lifestyle change.
  • Enlist in friends to help you quit – Having social support to help you quit is important.
  • Join a group – This helps keep accountability by stimulating friendly competition.
  • Get external support– It is very difficult to quit and having support to help you quit can make your smoking cessation plan much more successful.
  • Trick your brain– Your brain is hardwired to crave the nicotine. Start to trick it by holding the cigarette in your other hand or by not smoking at your usual times (e.g. after meals).
  • Learn other coping strategies– Most people smoke because it’s their coping mechanism. Learn to cope with other strategies, like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or physical activity so that the cravings don’t get to you. You can lower your chance of relapse this way.

Get Help:

Some provinces are progressive enough to fund smoking cessation aides for smokers interested in quitting. This means that smoking cessation aides like nicotine replacement patches or gum are provided fully covered by the government. Or that expensive medications (Champix and Zyban) that help you quit smoking are covered as a regular provincial benefit. This means that if you live in these provinces, you have no excuse. Since there are heavy taxes on tobacco, I think it is about time that the government acts to discourage smoking.

  • British Columbia Smoking Cessation Program – All you need to do is call 811 and register. They will even mail you your nicotine replacement patches straight to your door, or you could have it picked up at your local pharmacy. Registering for this program also allows you to take Champix or Zyban (both work to help you cut the cravings). Zyban is actually Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, and they found out that test subjects had a side effect of being deterred by smoking, so they marketed it as Zyban.
  • Ontario Pharmacy Smoking Cessation Program – A trained pharmacist can help counsel you to quit smoking. In addition, Zyban and Champix began coverage under the provincial program in 2011. These two medications more than double your chances of quitting.
  • Quebec – This forward province has covered the cost of Zyban and Champix since year 2000.
  • Saskatchewan– These medications are covered by the government as well in this province to help people quit smoking.

Of course like all medications, these medications, as amazing as they may sound, have side effects. Talking to your health care provider is a great next step (after setting the quit date) to your quit smoking journey to save money (and your health).

If you would rather go the non-pharmacological route, each province has a smoking cessation hotline equipped with counselors and other individuals invested in helping you quit smoking.

Either way, hopefully in five years time you’ll have $18,250 in the back instead of filling up as dark soot in your lungs.

About the Author: Clare is a 20-something who lives in beautiful (but expensive) British Columbia and has been working on her frugal living skills and fighting lifestyle inflation. She works to expand her DIY investment knowledge and hopes to enjoy financial independence one day. She enjoys reading personal finance books, freelance writing, but not so much arithmetic.

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About the author: This is a guest post. You can read more about the author in the biography above.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • LifeInsuranceCanada.Com Inc. August 29, 2012, 2:40 pm

    I used to smoke but it was killing me (my wife was nagging me to death).

    More seriously, it’s been many years and I still miss it occasionally. I don’t have an addictive personality, but I expect that once a year craving will last me for life. I envy those folks that can smoke once a month or have one a day.

    Here’s the roughest part about smoking though – your kids. Kids don’t take up smoking due to peer pressure. Kids by and large smoke because their parents smoke. That was a dealbreaker for me, thinking that I’m chaining my kids to a lifetime of servitude to tobacco.

  • alex August 29, 2012, 4:18 pm

    As usual, my reply to these sorts of “moralistic lifestyle posts” masquerading as financial advice is:

    “I don’t smoke. I also don’t waste money on other unhealthy things like books or magazines, musical recordings, radios, or electricity. These are all unhealthy luxuries that make you sedentary (which contemporary research suggests is the single most unhealthy thing you can do ) and are, consequently, an absolute waste of money.

    Furniture? What for? When I have friends over, it is to talk. If we all sit down, it tends to make the conversation lull.

    Better yet, I meet them elsewhere so that we can use public electricity, heat, furniture and toilet paper.

    That last one is a big one for me. It is literally flushing money down the toilet. No thank you. I time all of my emissions so that I am at work.

    It’s easy to save money if you really try.”

    People don’t ONLY smoke because it is addictive. They also smoke because they enjoy it.

    Saving money by eliminating hobbies and enjoyable activities is kinda weak in my view.

  • Andrew F August 29, 2012, 6:27 pm

    But is it not possible to find something else to enjoy instead?

    I suppose that is a libertarian argument for also allowing people to use other drugs, like heroin, meth, etc.

  • alex August 29, 2012, 7:08 pm

    “But is it not possible to find something else to enjoy instead?”

    Sure it is. But I don’t think one needs to be a raging libertarian to find it somewhat disagreeable (to say the least) for someone to tell you on which legal activities you should or should not spend your spare time or resources.

    The idea that you can save money by quitting smoking can be extended to ANY activity. So why pick on smoking — not because it is more or less of a financial drain than many other activities (collecting cars, going on trips, eating at fancy restaurants . . . ) — but mostly because other people find it offensive.

    A: “Hey man, why do you waste your life reading books instead of livin’ or getting a job or something.”

    B: “I enjoy books and they enrich my life”

    A: “But is it not possible to find something else to enjoy instead”

    B: “Go play in traffic”

    Look — I’m not advocating for smoking. I don’t smoke and think it IS a waste of time and money. But that’s just my view — I’m not sure it is really appropriate for me to tell other people that they should ALSO live the way I do — particularly under the guise of ‘financial advice’.

  • Andrew F August 29, 2012, 7:54 pm

    Reading is cheap and less harmful than smoking.

    Advice is just that, you can take it or leave it.

  • Ed Rempel August 30, 2012, 1:46 am

    Hi Clare,

    Here are 2 more thoughts on smoking from the financial world:

    1. Would you rather be a smoker or a multi-millionaire? You suggested smoking could cost $70/week. Smokers often start in their teens. If you quit and invest $70/week for 50 years (from age 15 to 65) at an average 10%/year, you would have $4.4 million!

    2. Nobody seems to care about smokers. If you look at cancer statistics, they show that more than 50% of people diagnosed with cancer are still alive 5 years later. Then there is often have an asterisk to a note that says “Excluding lung cancer”. Google it. The perception is that people with lung cancer deserve it (even though not nearly all are smokers). People diagnosed with lung cancer usually die in less than a year. Nobody seems to care. The Cancer Society quotes many stats “excluding lung cancer”. Lung cancer gets far less in research money than any other cancer. If you smoke and are diagnosed with lung cancer, your chance of survival is very low. What is more – nobody may say it to your face, but most people are thinking you deserve it.

    Ed

  • LifeInsuranceCanada.Com Inc. August 30, 2012, 11:51 am

    When I run into smoking (and I say this as a reformed smoker), I respond that I don’t have any comment on it from a lifestyle perspective – smoke or not. It’s a free country, so go nuts. But, I have lots to say on it from a financial perspective. It’ll double your life insurance premiums.

    Nevertheless, none of that impacts smokers. Smokers smoke because they want to or are addicted, and frankly the cost or logical analysis won’t sway anyone. It certainly didn’t sway me when I smoked.

    Heck, I just spent $400 on fishing rods. And I already HAVE a fishing rod. What sense did that make? Well, because we couldn’t catch pickerel on my old fishing rod (who knew pickerel had a preference in terms of what fishing rod you were using?). Actually, it turns out the new rods don’t catch pickerel either. I may need a bigger boat.

  • Emilio August 30, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Cigarettes I hate, but I do enjoy an occasional Cigar, and flavored tobacco through a water pipe.

    There is a calming and soothing mental effect that it is hard to describe to a non-smoker. You sit down for half an hour to an hour, reflect on life, or simply do nothing, while you engulf yourself in beautiful aromatic white smoke.

    This for me, is one of the most enjoyable activities, in our rat-race, money centric world. I look forward to many years of cigars and narghile.

  • Subversive August 30, 2012, 7:11 pm

    Is there really a smoker in the country who doesn’t know that smoking is expensive already? I miss the days when this blog had posts written by FT that were actually useful.

  • JP August 30, 2012, 8:22 pm

    I second that Subversive. I used to be a daily reader and now return a few times a month. I’m always disappointed to land on a pointless post like this one. Time to vote with my feet I suppose.

  • SST August 31, 2012, 11:25 am

    @Ed #6:

    “If you quit and invest $70/week for 50 years (from age 15 to 65) at an average 10%/year, you would have $4.4 million!”

    Not smoking would also leave you more time to figure out how to achieve a 10% annual return for 50 year straight.

    “Nobody seems to care about smokers.”

    Nobody, that is, except the government.

    Cigarettes are great for tax revenue.
    But then again, that is probably far more than offset by government health care spending to treat illness via cigarettes.

  • Daisy@Everything Finance August 31, 2012, 11:40 am

    Quitting smoking is not only good on the personal finances, it’s good for the economy and your neighbors, too! Smoking puts a LOT of people in the hospitals and health care system for various reasons, which is a burden economically (in Canada, with universal health care). Luckily not so many people are smoking anymore!

  • Clare August 31, 2012, 11:01 pm

    @Life Insurance Canada- I’ve been nagging my partner to death too- so I know how your wife feels. Congratulations on quitting the habit- it’s a tough one to do. My partner still smokes for much of the same reasons that everyone talked about here in the comment section. :)

  • Clare August 31, 2012, 11:02 pm

    @Ed Rempel- Thank you for sharing your thoughts- very helpful!

  • Clare September 1, 2012, 1:12 am

    @Subversive @JP- Sorry to hear that :( I’m actually quite passionate about this smoking cessation topic actually. I guess it hits home. Are there any topics that you would be more interested in reading about?

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