I was shopping the other day for Sam’s Club food (frozen blueberries 4 pounds for $7.50). As we checked out, I scanned the price of cigarettes behind the counter. Marlboro cigarettes were selling for just under $50 a carton. At one pack per day, that’s $150 a month. For a year, that works out to $1,800.
I once calculated how much a four-pack-a-day family could have had in the bank had they not smoked for fifty years and instead invested that money at standard returns. Six million dollars they’d have to enjoy in retirement. That’s amazing. Six million dollars. And we wouldn’t be talking about a bankrupt entitlement system.
Everyone has their threshold for giving up the habit. I think the price should be driven north of $10 a pack with aggressive taxation to drive away most young people picking it up. It also gives a great incentive for those freedom fighting smokers to quit smoking for good.
Happy: Man, I can’t believe it costs $50 a carton to smoke these days.
Clerk: Yeah, I don’t know how the kids afford it these days.
Happy: Hopefully, they can’t.
Clerk: My neighbor finally gave up smoking. She said it was too expensive. She’s taking all the money she’s saving and putting it towards a vacation fund.
Happy: What a great idea. I wonder what price it takes everyone to quit.
Clerk: I don’t know, but it just amazes me how anyone finds the money to pay for these things.
At what price would it take you to give up tobacco? I know everyone is different. I had a patient tell me she quit smoking when the price of cigarettes hit 30 cents a pack. Thirty cents a pack. She said that was a ridiculous price back then.
I suppose that was before government welfare checks guaranteed access to cigarettes. In fact, I’m kind of surprised today’s Congress hasn’t passed a Smoker’s Protection Act of 2010.
Considering Obama is still smoking with a cigarette in one side of his mouth and hypocritical talk of healthcare reform out the other, I suppose it’s only a matter of time before free cigarettes become a right.
*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*