Not only does smoking kill you, it is putting a serious dent in your retirement fund. We hear the broad numbers tossed about by the American Lung Association. Smoking tobacco kills half a million Americans every year. Costs to the nation are north of $330 billion in healthcare and productivity losses.

Giant numbers that numb the individual smoker. Enter a state-by-state analysis from WalletHub for the CDC’s Tobacco Awareness Week.

So, how much is your pack-a-day habit costing you? It depends on where you live, but the average is north of a million dollars. Cigarette prices fluctuate wildly across the country, from $5.25 in Virginia to $12.85 in New York.

South Carolina comes in as the ‘cheapest’ state, with the total cost hitting an estimated $1,097,690. Missouri comes in at $1,177,230. New York stretches to more than $1.9 million.

The priciest state in the union? Alaska. The state tops the $2 million mark. No wonder they want to legalize marijuana. You’d have to be stoned out of your mind to pay that.

Most are thinking, how the hell does a person spend a million dollars plus on smoking. Well, the methodology is sure to be one people scoff at.

WalletHub grabbed the average ‘tobacco cost per person’ and that equaled the biggest outlay in a smoker’s lifetime habit. That does pull the cost lower in all 50 states. South Carolina sits at $768,346 and Alaska at around $1.5 million. Still expensive, but not the average million dollars plus.

How did they pump up the cost? The headline numbers were estimated by calculating “the amount of return a person would have earned by instead investing that money in the stock market over the same period. We used the historical average market return rate for the S&P 500 minus the inflation rate during the same time period to reflect the return in present-value terms.”

So, the money not spent smoking would be invested responsibly over 51 years. Better hope year 51 doesn’t fall in a bear market. The average rate of return smooths out the market downturns that occur in real life.

While the headline is jarring, there’s no reason to inflate the costs. Over $700k for the cheapest state is still a ridiculous amount of money. You could pay for your house multiple times, send your kids to college and buy a fleet of jet skis.

Oh, and seeing as smoking shortens your life, you’d live longer. It’s a great idea from the CDC and WalletHub, but don’t cheapen the figures with the ‘if you avoid fast food everyday and invested, you’d be a millionaire in 40 years.’

There’s plenty of ways to fight smoking, and the average cost more than fits the bill of sticker shock.


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