Personal Finance FAQ

What is That Pack of Cigarettes Really Costing You?

Smoking Costs More than Ever by Fort Worth Retirement Planner Hull Financial Planning
It costs more than what you pay for the pack at the store.

“A cigar has…a fire at one end and a fool at the other.”
–Horace Greely

“A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless.”
–James I of England

It’s not a mystery that I am no fan of smoking. It killed both of my grandfathers. They managed to survive World War II, but couldn’t dodge the Marlboro Man.

Why, then, does a financial planner harp on smoking?

Your goal in life should be to maximize the happiness of each dollar that you spend.

If you’re a smoker, you know the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

At least, you think you know the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

The problem is that the retail price you pay where you buy your smokes is just the beginning of the price you pay.

Let’s explore a little deeper and find out just how much more those lung darts cost you.

The cost of cigarettes that the price tag doesn’t tell you

The average pack of coffin darts costs $6.96 in the United States.

The average smoker smokes 2/3 of a pack of cigarettes per day, meaning that he spends $4.67 per day on the habit.

Over a year, that’s $1,703.11.

But, as I said, that’s just the beginning.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are 43.8 million smokers in the United States. It’s no mystery that smoking causes both illness and lost time at work. If you add up lost productivity because a smoker had to stay at home hacking up a lung and the actual monetary cost of treating the diseases and sicknesses caused by smoking, smoking costs $193.8 billion per year. That’s $4,424.66 per smoker per year.

So, the average cost of smoking per smoker per year is $6,127.77. Given that the average smoker smokes 244.55 packs per year, that comes to $25.06 per pack, or $16.79 per day.

That’s a little more than the $6.96 price tag you see at the store.

But, wait! There’s more!

The average smoker starts smoking at 20.1 years old. The average smoker dies between 13.2 and 14.5 years earlier than the non-smoker, depending on sex, meaning that the average smoker is dying at 64.85 years old.

That’s 44 ¾ years of acting as a walking bellows.

It’s also $198,003.54 per smoker flushed down the drain.

$200k for a habit that will likely kill you, make you smell nasty, and generally lower your enjoyment of life.

If you’re a smoker, you’re paying $200k for the privilege of torturing your body and making yourself feel miserable.

Can you think of other uses of $200,000?

I can.

What about you? What would you spend $200,000 on? Joe Camel or something else? Let’s talk about it in the comments below!


Jason Hull, CFP®, was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business.

You can read more about him in the About Page.

3 replies on “What is That Pack of Cigarettes Really Costing You?”

Cigarettes killed my father at 64, right on time given the stat in your post. At the end he could barely draw enough air to move.

At it happens, this is the year I’ll turn 64. While I haven’t taken especially good care of myself over the years, today I was in the gym lifting heavy objects. Not smoking makes all the difference.

But they debilitated him long before that. As his health collapsed so did his business and the family went from prosperous to poverty over a decade.

Occasionally I’ll hear smokers say, well ya gotta die of something.

I can only guess they’ve never watched emphysema kill someone. Short of being internationally tortured to death, it is tough to imagine an uglier, harder way to go.

Oh yeah, expensive habit too.

Hey, Jim – Good to hear from you!

Both of my grandparents died of emphysema. My mother’s father was restricted long before he passed. He lived for at least ten years barely being able to make it to the car to go to a restaurant. Were he not already retired from Lockheed, I can’t imagine what it would have done to he and my grandmother.

I can’t imagine why someone would intentionally cause themselves such misery. Probably because the misery will happen in the future, and we vastly discount future suffering and pleasure.

I’m very libertarian in my political beliefs, but smoking is one of the few things I’d be happy for active government intervention against.

In a much less important vein, being around smokers also makes me stink, which I despise.

I don’t hate smokers, but I certainly detest the behavior.

Yeah, in their day the risks were hidden and glamour heavily promoted. So no surprise they took it up. I probably would have.

But with all we know now, and the reality of how disgusting and dirty a habit it really is, it amazes me to see young people picking it up still.

But it is their choice and I wouldn’t want to see it banned. Guess I’m more of a libertarian than you. 🙂

I don’t have anything against smokers, but the smell does sadly make them hard to be around.

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