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Cigarette Smoking in NC: A Million-Dollar Habit?

Smokers in North Carolina spend an average of $88,000 over their lifetime on their habit, which is less than in many other states. (erdenebayer/morguefile)
Smokers in North Carolina spend an average of $88,000 over their lifetime on their habit, which is less than in many other states. (erdenebayer/morguefile)
January 25, 2016

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - The average smoker in North Carolina will spend $88,000 on their habit over a lifetime. That's according to new data from the personal-finance website, WalletHub.

Lifetime healthcare costs are even higher than that, at $136,000, and tobacco addiction specialist Donna Borowski with Mission Health System in Asheville says finding the motivation to quit comes down to very personal reasons.

"One of my most favorite tools to use when coaching patients is get them to think about why it would even be important," says Borowski. "What they're wanting for themselves around their health, around their future? It begins to gel a little bit more."

While lifetime costs of smoking sound high, the state actually has the fourth-lowest out-of-pocket costs, compared to the rest of the country. For example, New York residents spend more than double that over a lifetime. Much of the variance is attributed to different tobacco taxes between states.

Jill Gonzalez, analyst and spokesperson with Wallethub, says it shouldn't be surprising where North Carolina falls, given the state's long history with tobacco.

"Because North Carolina definitely is widely rooted in the tobacco industry, it makes sense that it's the top five in terms of cheapest places to be a smoker," says Gonzalez. "Packs are cheaper to buy in North Carolina; the taxes are very, very low, especially compared to some northeastern states."

Mission Health's Nicotine Cessation Program sees on average 1,500 patients a year. Borowksi says if you want to quit, taking a strategic approach can lead you toward success.

"Why are you wanting it," says Borowski. "And if we can ground you in that, then let's talk about what your barriers are and whats' going to motivate you and then, let's use the medicines - because they work."

Experts also advise smokers trying to quit to take it one day at a time, don't carry cigarettes with you, and be aware of routine situations that might trigger your urge to smoke.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC