To Smoke or Not to Smoke?

Recently I pulled into the drive-thru at McDonald’s and in front of me was a car with two teenage boys. They weren’t paying attention and keeping up with the line. So, expecting a flock of angry birds I honked my horn. It woke them and from then on they mostly paid attention.

What I noticed, when their heads weren’t bobbing to something I wouldn’t recognize as music, was that both were either smoking cigarettes or vaping. I could fault them for that but at their age, I was on my way to becoming totally nicotine addicted and working my way towards two or more packs a day.  The brief experience made me reflect back on my own experiences.

Ironically the Marlboro Man died of cancer.

I guess that I began smoking around age twelve, if not younger. That would have been 1954 and I continued smoking until 1982 at age forty when I attended a smoking cessation class and six weeks later snuffed out my devil weed. So, I smoked 28 years and have been smoke-free for 36 years.

In 1954 a pack of cigarettes in New York was .23 cents and I was smoking one or two a day.  By 1960, the year I graduated from high school the price was .26 cents and I was consuming a pack a day. In 1982 cigarettes were .82 cents a pack and I was smoking three packs a day and if I went bar hopping on Friday night it would be another two packs for a total of five.

In the years since I quit my lungs have slowly returned to baby butt pink and the cost of cigarettes have skyrocketed. Since I began citing New York prices I’ll stay with that. So, If I were still smoking today and lived in NYC the cost would average $13.00 a pack and my 90 cigarettes a day would be costing me $39.00 every day.

I’ll let you do the hard arithmetic but it’s easy to see that my life would have been significantly different had I not quit. Over $1,100 a month or $12,000 a year of discretionary wealth would literally go up in smoke. But since I’m retired and live on a fairly fixed income that money wouldn’t be discretionary, it would be food, medicine, and other necessities of life.

I haven’t a clue if you could get an eighteen-year-old to consider

If you can’t trust your doctor or your dentist, who can you trust?

where they are headed when the inhale that first nicotine-laced smoke but maybe something parents and schools should be teaching is the consequences of these life-altering decisions. Maybe teaching the opposite should also be done. Back when there was such a thing as interest on savings it was often demonstrated what would happen if you religiously invested a fixed amount of money over a long period of time. One would end up being a very wealthy person. Because of passbook savings being what they aren’t that’s no longer as true. But, interest on savings has nothing to do with the cost of smoking. The addiction is always going to grow and the price always increase. P.T. Barnum said there was a sucker born every day and that’s just as true today as in Barnum’s day.

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