Ballpark Estimate: Free to $2,500
Maybe, like most people, you started smoking in your teens, to look “cool.” Or maybe you smoke because your parents smoked, or all your friends smoke, or you started off “only smoking when you were drinking,” or “only smoking when you were stressed.” Whatever the reason, chances are you’re hooked, and whether you think about it every time you light up or try not to think about it at all, we all know that smoking is a good way to get cancer, lung disease, heart disease, or a host of other nasty health problems. But quitting is hard- really hard. Most people need some help to quit successfully.
The nicotine in cigarette smoke causes changes in your brain chemistry and central nervous system, and is highly addicting. When you smoke your first cigarette of the day, nicotine helps wake you up and makes you feel more alert. Later on, nicotine, and the act of smoking itself, makes you feel calm and relaxed. All in all, the more you smoke, the more you want to smoke. Your body craves more nicotine, you become physically dependent on it, and you suffer physically and psychologically when you try to quit.
The only good thing you can say about nicotine is that it doesn’t cause cancer. It’s the smoke that causes cancer. The smoke contains tar which is made up of more than 4,000 chemicals, including cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, and ammonia. Sixty of the chemicals in tar are carcinogens and many of them also cause heart and lung disease. All sixty can kill you. About 50% of the people who continue to smoke will die due to smoking. Tobacco use causes nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States and tops the list as the most preventable cause of death.
What It Costs to Smoke
Here are a few items from a Fact Sheet published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about smoking and tobacco use in the United States:
- In 2005, Americans spent an estimated $88.8 billion on tobacco products.
- In 2006, approximately 371 billion cigarettes were purchased in the United States.
- In 2005, cigarette companies spent over $13 billion on advertising campaigns.
- From 1997 to 2001, cigarette smoking was responsible for approximately $167 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States.
- Cigarette smoking results in 5.5 million years of potential life lost in the United States annually
- In 2006, the average price of a pack of cigarettes (nationwide) was $4.26 (although prices vary greatly from region to region).
- Smokers pay much higher health insurance and life insurance premiums than non-smokers.
- The resale value of your car is reduced if you or your passengers smoke while driving. It’s virtually impossible to get rid of the smoke smell.
- The same goes for your house. If your carpets, walls, and drapes are permeated with the smell of cigarette smoke, costly cleaning will be necessary before you can put it up for sale, and even then, residual odors reduce its value.
It’s an economic no-brainer: Based on the 2006 national average price, if you smoke a pack a day, every day, you’re spending $1,555 a year on cigarettes, and killing yourself at the same time.
How Not to Quit
Many people try to ease their way into quitting by “toning down” their smoking habit with alternative tobacco products .
Low Tar / Nicotine
Switching to low tar and nicotine cigarettes sounds like a first step toward a healthier lifestyle, but studies have found that smokers end up smoking more cigarettes and inhaling more deeply, trying to get the same nicotine dose as they got with their regular cigarettes.
“All natural” cigarettes claim to have no chemicals or additives in them, but they still contain tobacco, and the smoke from “natural” cigarettes contains carcinogens and toxins like tar and carbon monoxide.
Herbal cigarettes contain no tobacco, but the act of simply smoking them creates tar and carbon monoxide.
Clove cigarettes contain about 2/3 tobacco and 1/3 ground cloves and other additives. Chemicals found in cloves have been linked to asthma and other lung diseases, and research has shown that smoking clove cigarettes produces more nicotine, carbon monoxide, and tar than regular cigarettes.
Switching to a non-smoking type of tobacco like snuff or chewing tobacco, or smoking cigars or a pipe and not inhaling still puts you at an increased risk for cancer of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat as well as other health problems like tooth loss, gum disease, and bone loss in your jaw. And believe it or not, one large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes.
Some people think menthol cigarettes might be less harmful to their health. The menthol makes your throat feel cooler when you inhale, and it decreases your cough reflex. But studies have shown that menthol smokers inhale more deeply and hold the smoke in their lungs longer than regular cigarette smokers. Another study found that menthol smokers have a harder time quitting, and suggest that they first switch to non-menthol cigarettes to wean themselves off menthol, and then try to quit smoking altogether.
So How Do We Quit Smoking and What Does It Cost?
There are plenty of quitting methods you can choose from, but while one method may have worked wonders for your spouse, office mate, or neighbor, it may not work for you. You have to be persistent, possibly trying a number of different methods to get you started. If you really want to quit for good, it’s best to use a combination of methods, such as using nicotine replacement therapy and medication in conjunction with support groups and lifestyle changes.
With determination, motivation, and will power, some people are able to just stop smoking. The pros, of course, are that you instantly will start reaping the health benefits of being a non-smoker, and quitting won’t be a long, drawn out process. The cons are that you will likely suffer withdrawal symptoms, and many people find that they need some activity to substitute in the place of smoking – namely, eating.
- Cost: $0
Some people have had success by simply cutting back, a little at a time, on the number of cigarettes they allow themselves to smoke each day. Others just smoke less of each cigarette, allowing themselves a steadily decreasing number of puffs. Like quitting cold turkey, this takes lots of motivation and will-power, as well as outside support from friends and family. The pros are that you can avoid severe withdrawal symptoms by gradually reducing your nicotine intake. As you cut down your smoking, you can feel good about your self-control and be inspired to keep going. The cons, however, are that this method can last a long time. People become emotionally attached to those last few cigarettes that they allow themselves each day, and it’s even more difficult to quit. Plus, you’re still carrying cigarettes around with you or storing them at home, so they’re readily available. It’s easy to “cheat” while you’re cutting back.
- Cost: $0 (plus the cost of cigarettes while you quit)
If you have a close friend or family member who wants to quit smoking as much as you do, the buddy system might be helpful. When you’re quitting with a buddy, you have someone to talk to and hopefully rely on during those desperate moments when you’d really like to smoke. The two of you can come up with creative solutions to obstacles that get in your way, or think up non-smoking activities to help you through the tough times. The cons, though, are that one of you may fall off the wagon and possibly encourage the other to start smoking again too. And seeing your friend fail can make quitting seem like a lost cause. The buddy system is a good tool to use in conjunction with other, more powerful quitting strategies.
- Cost: $0
This is one-on-one counseling over the phone, with a trained professional. You can look in the phone book or online for Hotlines to call, or go to Nicotine Anonymous to search anywhere in the United States. Most numbers are toll-free and most are staffed around the clock. The pros are that you can make a phone call any time you need help, advice, or support, and your call is anonymous. You can get the encouragement you need, when you need it, wherever you are. The cons are that telephone counseling is somewhat impersonal, since you may not speak with the same counselor the next time you call, and to be truly effective, you need privacy and plenty of time for your phone call
- Cost: $0
If you feel comfortable using online chat rooms, online counseling and support groups may work well for you. Go to Nicotine Anonymous and search for Online Groups. You will see a list of current meeting times when you can log on and chat about how your quitting program is going, and what is working for other people. Pros are that you can attend “meetings” without leaving home, and the meetings are anonymous. Cons are that you must fit the meetings into your schedule and to maintain relationships with the people in your group, everyone must continue to log on regularly. These groups concentrate more on encouragement and support than on education about the health hazards of smoking.
- Cost: $0
Support Groups and Classes
Many organizations sponsor or will pay for support groups and classes to quit smoking. Your employer may be one of them, and your health insurance company is certainly another. Classes are also sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, your local hospital, and the U.S. Department of Health. Search online or ask your doctor for tips on how to locate a class. The pros are that these classes are generally free of charge, and you will learn from a trained professional about how smoking affects your health and how best to quit. You will also get support from your classmates or fellow group members. The cons are that you will have to find time in your schedule to attend regular classes, and once there, you will have to quit smoking on the class schedule, rather than at your own pace. This works fine for some people, but for others, it can be frustrating. Transportation to and from class can be an issue as well.
- Cost: $0 (plus transportation)
Sponsored by groups like Smokers’ Anonymous or Nicotine Anonymous, these are support groups where you can share your experiences, both good and bad, with others who are either trying to quit or have quit successfully. You can find these groups in the phone book or go to Nicotine Anonymous and use their nationwide Search feature. You can also inquire at your local hospital or health clinic. The groups follow a 12-Step Program of recovery from addiction, and you will generally be paired with a buddy to call between meetings. The pros are that you will receive plenty of support at these meetings, and if your group meets often, you can use the meetings as goals to strive for when your cravings are particularly bad. The cons are that scheduling and transportation can be difficult, and it’s sometimes hard to find groups in your area. Also, these groups aren’t so concerned with educating you about the harmful effects of smoking.
- Cost: $0 (plus transportation)
Counseling and Therapy
Meeting one-on-one with a trained therapist helps many people quit smoking. The pros are the individual attention you will receive, and the opportunity for in-depth discussion of how your smoking impacts other aspects of your life. A good therapist can offer helpful advice specific to your needs, and can help you work through the emotional difficulties you may face during the process. The cons are that therapy can be expensive, unless covered by your insurance. Scheduling and transportation may also be a problem, and it’s sometimes hard to find a therapist who you “connect” with on a personal level.
- Cost: $80 to $200 per hour (or health insurance co-pay)
Find a licensed acupuncturist through a doctor’s referral, your hospital, or health clinic. Most programs to help you quit smoking involve at least Cost To Quit Smokingfour or five visits. Your acupuncturist will take a thorough medical history and conduct a preliminary examination using methods from traditional Chinese medicine. You will have the opportunity to ask as many questions as you want. Each individual’s acupuncture treatment plan is different, but they all involve inserting very fine needles into the patient’s body at specific points, thereby influencing and discouraging the desire to smoke. The pros to acupuncture are one-on-one attention, the natural aspect of the procedure, and the treatment plan which includes herbs and supplements, as well as dietary recommendations, to reduce cravings and ease withdrawal symptoms. The cons are that acupuncture involves repeat visits, so scheduling and transportation may be a problem, and office visits can be expensive when they are not covered by insurance.
- Cost: $50 to $120 per visit
- Cost: $500+ per program (or insurance co-pay)
- Cost: Herbs and supplements $6 to $20 each
You must truly want to quit smoking for hypnosis to work. Also, while group sessions work for some people, most have better luck in one-on-one sessions with a licensed hypnotherapist who is able to ease your mind into a deeply relaxed state where you are more open to suggestion. The therapist will suggest different ways for you to think about smoking, and these ideas will have positive effects on your future smoking behavior. The pros are that you get one-on-one attention and that one visit, for some people, is all that’s needed. The cons are that hypnotherapists don’t offer much in the way of anti-smoking education. Scheduling and transportation may be a problem, and depending on where you live, sessions may be costly (unless your health insurance covers your visits). To locate a reputable hypnotherapist, ask for recommendations from your doctor or local hospital.
- Cost: $40 to $350 per session (or insurance co-pay)
- Plan on 3-6 sessions although some people see results after only 1 session
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
Available over-the-counter or by prescription, nicotine gum is used to help wean smokers away from a smoking lifestyle. The nicotine in the gum does not contain tar, carbon monoxide, or other cancer-causing agents. Cost To Quit SmokingYou must follow a regular schedule and use the gum a certain number of times each day, in a certain way, for a specified amount of time. You will taper off according to package directions. Pros are that nicotine gum can help reduce withdrawal symptoms and help ease your way into quitting. It also gives your mouth “something to do.” Cons are that you still have nicotine in your daily lifestyle, and the gum may prove to have side effects or become addicting. Some people complain about the taste. The schedule is sometimes hard to follow and the gum must be chewed in a certain way, unlike regular gum. Finally, the program is costly if you start on the highest dosages. The program lasts for 12 weeks.
- Cost: $55 for gum starter pack (108 pieces)
- Cost: $33 for refills (48 pieces)
- Total Cost: $500 to $625
Available over-the-counter or by prescription, nicotine lozenges are similar to nicotine gum in that they help wean smokers away from nicotine by delivering a measured amount into your bloodstream on a regular, decreasing dosage over the course of 12 weeks. Pros are that they are sugar free and may help you avoid withdrawal symptoms while you’re quitting. They give you something “for your mouth to do,” which some people appreciate. Cons are that they must be taken at certain times in a specific way. You may not eat or drink for 15 minutes prior to using a lozenge, nor while the lozenge is in your mouth. There are a number of side effects you must watch out for. Your doctor will explain these to you. Also, some people dislike the taste. The program lasts for 12 weeks.
- Cost: $55 for 72 lozenges
- Total Cost: $750 to $925
Available over-the-counter or by prescription (depending on nicotine dosage), nicotine patches stick to your skin and deliver a measured amount of nicotine into your body, over time. The patches help you avoid withdrawal symptoms while you are quitting, and help ease you into a non-smoking lifestyle. Pros are that the patches are easy to use and they contain no tar, carbon monoxide, or other cancer-causing agents. Cons are that they sometimes cause redness and itching of the skin (try switching brands). They may cause vivid dreams or sleeping problems. As with any nicotine product, they may become addictive and they may cause side effects.
- Cost: $250 for a full 3-step program (or covered by health insurance)
Nicotine Inhaler / Spray
Available over-the-counter or by prescription, these are nicotine products that are inhaled or sprayed into your mouth. Besides being easy to Cost To Quit Smokinguse and satisfying your craving for nicotine in a controlled way, the pros are also that inhalers or sprays can satisfy the “hand-to-mouth” habit that many smokers have, as well as the need to inhale deeply. Inhalers and sprays can ease withdrawal symptoms, and contain no tar, carbon monoxide, or other cancer-causing agents. Cons are that, unless covered by insurance, these products are very costly. Like all nicotine products, you may experience side effects and you run the risk of becoming addicted. Some people find the taste unpleasant, and others find that sticking to the schedule is difficult. Also, the physical action of using the inhaler or spray mimics the act of smoking, which may have an adverse effect on some people. Finally, unless covered by insurance, they are costly. You will follow a set schedule over the course of 12 weeks.
- Cost: $50 for a box of 42 nicotine cartridges
- Total Cost: may be as high as $2,500 (May be covered by health insurance)
Available only by doctor’s prescription, there are medications available to help you stop smoking. Buproprion SR (Zyban) is a nicotine-free antidepressant that has been found to reduce withdrawal symptoms and help you quit. Varenicline (Chantix) is a relatively new non-nicotine drug that attaches to nicotine receptors in your brain, reducing the pleasure you get from smoking and easing the withdrawal symptoms. The pros of medications are that you are under a doctor’s care and supervision, the medications work very well for many people, and they contain no nicotine. The cons are that, like all medications, you must take them as directed, on a regular schedule, and you may experience side effects. The drugs take a week or more to take effect, and they work to varying degrees depending on the individual. Finally, unless covered by health insurance, they are expensive.
- Cost: $120 to $250 per 30-day supply (or health insurance co-pay)
It’s Never Too Late (or Too Early) to Quit Smoking
Whether you’ve been smoking for a year, a decade, or a lifetime, quitting your smoking habit will make a positive difference in your health. Here’s a timeline from the US Surgeon General’s Report:
- 20 minutes after smoking your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop to healthier levels.
- 12 hours after quitting, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
- 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting, your circulation improves and your lung function increases. Food will taste better and your sense of smell returns to normal.
- 1 to 9 months after quitting, your lung function continues to improve; coughing and shortness of breath decrease.
- 1 year after quitting, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is now half that of a smoker’s.
- 5 to 15 years after quitting, your risk of stroke is reduced to that of a non-smoker.
- 10 years after quitting, your risk of death from lung cancer is now decreased by 50%. Your risks of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas have all decreased.
- 15 years after quitting, your risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
Don’t Give Up!
The average person takes between two and four tries to successfully quit smoking. If you try to quit and find yourself smoking again a few weeks or months later, don’t get discouraged. Quitting is hard. Try to figure out what caused your setback, and ask your doctor, family, and friends for help to figure out a strategy around it. Keep at it and try again, for your sake and the sake of those who care about you.
Disclaimer: Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any program to quit smoking. Women who are pregnant or nursing, people on certain medications, people with medical conditions, and the elderly must take precautions and seek medical advice, even if you are using over-the-counter products.