The big costs of habits and addictions

Before indulging a vice that is likely to become a lifelong habit, young people should analyze the costs. Don’t focus on the price of a six pack of beer, a pack of cigarettes or a bag of marijuana-laced cinnamon bears. Those costs, at the moment of purchase, seem like pocket change to most. Rather, contemplate the lifelong costs.

Smoking, drinking and drug habits come with purchase price tags, but they also lead to long-term behaviors, lost opportunities and potential health issues.

A new study released Tuesday by the personal finance organization WalletHub, to coincide with Tobacco-Free Awareness Week, gives us a rough idea of the bigger picture. Analysts calculated the potential losses, including the cumulative cost of one pack of cigarettes each day, to determine what a smoker’s habit costs over a lifetime. The study included smoking-related health care data, income sacrificed to lost work and reduced job opportunities, along with other associated data.

Researchers separated statistics by state, because of different overall health conditions and tax structures. Colorado came in as having the 23rd highest cigarette-related costs. Nowhere is the habit cheap. When all state data are combined, for the sake of a national average, the personal financial cost per individual is staggering. “We estimate the financial cost of smoking in the U.S. to be roughly $1.6 million per smoker over a lifetime,” the study’s analysts wrote.

Just the out-of-pocket cost for cigarettes amounts to $115,214 — enough to buy a home in some markets. Smoking-related health care costs average $164,876; income loss averages $220,855. Financial opportunity cost — including the loss of financial growth that could result from properly investing money lost to smoking — averages $1.089 million over a lifetime. We cannot attest to the precision of these numbers. Assuming they fall within a giant ballpark of accuracy, they make an important point: The cost of smoking, over a lifetime, is life altering.

The high costs associated with smoking apply to other habits and addictions. A 2006 study by the Centers for Disease Control found excessive alcohol consumption costs the United States economy $223.5 billion annually. Each drink alone, 10 years ago, cost the user $1.90 in economic loss. At that rate, if a consumer averages just one drink a day the product cost alone reaches nearly $35,000 over 50 years. A heavy drinker who averages five drinks a day could spend more than $173,000, on drinks alone, over five decades. That doesn’t include costs of associated health problems, lost work opportunities and the financial opportunity lost to cigarette-related money that was not put to constructive use.

So, what about pot?

A 2013 study by the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University estimated the average user of state-sanctioned marijuana would consume 3.53 ounces of the product each year. At that modest rate, research determined, the average user would spend $650 each year on weed — or $32,000 over 50 years. Factor in the growing number of employers who disqualify THC users, and the lost income potential could be enormous. Lost financial opportunities come into play, just as they do with money spent on any other vice. Mounting evidence tells us THC, like alcohol and nicotine, can lead to costly health problems.

Alcohol, tobacco and drugs often lead to habits and addictions. Those trying to free themselves, or avoid the oppression of dependence, should consider the simple math that shows the high lifetime costs. A routine buzz may not be worth the sacrifice of good jobs, health, homes and investments.

Reprinted from the Colorado Springs Gazette

Distributed by Creators.com

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