The average Nevada smoker spends more than $1.3 million over a lifetime, including the cumulative economic toll of a pack per day for several decades, health care expenditures, income losses and other costs, according to the personal-finance website WalletHub.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 42.1 million Americans and more than 400,000 Nevadans smoke. To help encourage them to kick the dangerous habit, WalletHub estimated the financial cost of smoking to be roughly $1.4 million per U.S. smoker over a lifetime.
The cost in Nevada could grow because Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed an increase in the state tobacco tax, from 80 cents to $1.20 a pack, which is estimated to raise an additional $80 million annually for the state.
WalletHub’s analysis provided another opportunity for public health officials in Nevada to remind all tobacco users that help is a toll-free phone call away: 1-800-QUIT-NOW, (1-800-784-8669). The number connects callers with live counselors who can answer questions and initiate a plan to end the addiction.
Tobacco-cessation experts are motivated more by a desire to promote better health than economic effects, but the figures on the financial toll came as little surprise during Tobacco-Free Awareness Week. The annual health care costs in Nevada per year directly caused by smoking total $1.08 billion, and the state and federal tax burden to Nevadans works out to be $796 per household.
“Obviously, we want smokers to quit because we want people to live longer, healthier lives,” said Maria Azzarelli, coordinator of the Tobacco Control Program for the Southern Nevada Health District. “The fewer people who smoke, there’s less secondhand smoke in the air, and that helps society as a whole.”
WalletHub broke the research into categories:
■ Tobacco costs: The average cost of a pack of cigarettes in each state was added to the interest income lost on the money spent on tobacco.
■ Related health care costs: State-level data from the CDC shows the direct costs to treat smoking-related complications, and that was divided by the total number of adult smokers in each state.
■ Income lost because of smoking-related issues: Studies show smoking causes loss of income from absenteeism, workplace bias or lower productivity, resulting in an average of 8 percent decrease in the median household income.
■ Other costs: Increase in homeowner’s insurance premium and secondhand smoke exposure costs.
For Nevada, WalletHub found that the total cost per smoker was $1,325,116, a ranking of 21st among the 50 states and Washington, D.C. The tobacco cost per Nevada smoker was $973,200, which also ranked 21st. Health care cost per smoker was $135,602 (15th), income loss per smoker was calculated to be $207,154 (24th), and other costs were $9,160 (12th).
Sandoval’s proposal to raise the tobacco tax still would keep Nevada well below New York, the state with the highest such levies, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. With an average sales tax of 35 cents per pack, raising the excise tax would leave Nevada with a total state tax of $1.55; New York’s is $4.75. The federal cigarette tax is $1.01.