Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Economics of Smoking

I've been working with someone recently who smoked - a lot. How does 40-60 fags a day sound?  Each cheap branded cigarette costs  about 35p.  Let's say that averages out at about £17.50 a day, £122 a week or about five hundred and thirty quid a month. It's more than my mortgage!  No wonder that I balk at the idea of this particular vice.

Now I'm not very judgemental.  Live and let live but don't blow your smoke over me .  That ban on smoking in public places was a godsend.  I get wheezy pretty quickly as a consequence of secondary smoking.  If someone wants to smoke in their own home or outside it's entirely up to them.  In fact I sometimes join my addicted colleagues when they go out to top up their nicotine.  Smoking is still rife in a mental health service where having a fag with a patient used to be a way to foster engagement.  How times have moved on.

The problem here was that this person is far from rich.  Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) report that, in developing countries, tobacco use comprises a person's ability to meet basic needs.  Well this is the case in the UK, a real first world problem as well for those on lower incomes. There was little over for food let alone for the things that we identified might help combat depression. Small things like paint for a bedroom and a haircut.  E-cigarettes seem a cheaper alternative but this person was insistent that they didn't get on with them.

So........ we've been working one cigarette at a time.  35p saved each day doesn't sound a lot but it all adds up. to about £10.50 a month.  Even that's enough to start to make a difference  to someone's diet.

Spelling it out in financial terms fag by fag has really resonated with this person.  They've cut their habit by a massive fifteen cigarettes a day over just a couple of months and will be starting a smoking cessation programme soon. Simple measures such as hiding the cigarettes away and questioning whether they need one each time they have a craving have helped.  This person feels like they have got control of their life back.  Their new financial freedom is one of the biggest factors.


  1. I was delighted when the no smoking ban came in. It meant we could go to the pub quiz and not arrive home coughing and having to put all our clothes in the wash! I get very irked when people smoke on the veranda of our cricket club near to me and the dog……legally OK, but morally not….they should move 100 yards away in my opinion! ( I did used to smoke for a few years in my early 20s )

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Sorry Sooze - your comment has accidentally disappeared, a common problem around here, due to my fat fingers on my phone I think! You're welcome to repost.

  3. Having worked for many years with people on very low incomes or benefits many choose to spend their money on cigarettes rather than food- that's how some "afford" it. I was saddened when I first saw it for myself.

  4. To me smoking has always seemed a waste of money - and an extra health risk - so I've never smoked. Or have I ? Definitely passively! as until I married I lived with my dad who smoked a pipe at weekends and a stepmother who had a fag wedged permanently between her teeth during all waking hours. We socialised in pubs and clubs and breathed in a thick blue toxic haze. (my dad died of lung cancer and my step mother thrombosis)

    A long time ago, but consequently I've had a lifetime of bronchitis and asthma - particularly dangerous as I'm on immuno suppressants.

    Outside the major hospital I attend are dozens of staff alongside patients in nightwear puffing away for all they are worth. And yes, How on earth can they all afford it!

  5. I hate to imagine what my life would be like had I smoked. No doubt my kuds would have also suffered. Kudos to that person and good luck that they can keep the count lower each day.

  6. I quit about 20 years ago. I used the Scottish method; one day I decided that I wouldn't buy any more cigs. Easy.

  7. Well done to you for being so proactive and making a plan. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke and get so cross when people gather outside the front doors of establishments. I have to hold my breath and cover my nose. Also, how does one find time to smoke 40 - 60?
    That is real commitment.