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Kentucky Smokers' Million Dollar Habit

A new report says lighting up costs the average Kentucky smoker more than $240,000 a year. (Greg Stotelmyer)
A new report says lighting up costs the average Kentucky smoker more than $240,000 a year. (Greg Stotelmyer)
February 1, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. – We all know smoking cigarettes is an expensive habit, but have you ever thought about just how much money it costs people over their lifetime?

New research compiled by the consumer survey company WalletHub determined that the average cost for the 66 million tobacco users in the United States goes well beyond a $1 million, sometimes more than $2 million, depending on where you live.

WalletHub spokeswoman Jill Gonzalez says in addition to buying tobacco, a smoker has health care costs and income losses.

"A lot of times it's not something that you think about,” she points out. “Just investing $5, $6, all the way up to $12 a day into the stock market, that's how much money you could be earning.

“So, forget the Powerball, you know. This could be a one-stop shop for you, if you just quit smoking."

WalletHub put the lifetime cost per smoker in Kentucky at $1,238,247. That's more than $24,000 a year, according to the survey.

Gonzalez says if the cost of smoking doesn't get your attention, consider these statistics: the average smoker who starts at age 18 will only live to age 69, and tobacco kills about 500,000 Americans each year.

Helping convince youth to not smoke or quit smoking is easier said than done, according to Amy Barkley, director of the Tobacco States and Mid-Atlantic Region for the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. She says while youth smoking has declined in Kentucky, with 18 percent of high school students now lighting up, other challenges have emerged.

"The use of other products, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes,” she explains. “Some of these novel nicotine products are becoming more and more popular among kids."

Barkley maintains Kentucky has been unable to deal with the growing problem because it does not have a fully funded tobacco-prevention program.

"So once again, the tobacco industry is getting ahead of the game and we are extremely outgunned,” she stresses. “Our kids have no chance."

According to a report from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the tobacco companies are spending 118 times more on marketing their products in Kentucky than the state is on prevention.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY