In an era marked by recessions and economic uncertainty, many people search for money-saving tips to live comfortably for less. Smokers have an obvious cost burning a hole in their budgets. Budgeting, however, isn't easy, and nor is quitting smoking. E-cigarettes makes it easier to kick the habit, but is vaping cheaper than smoking?
When looking at the costs of each nicotine solution, it's also worth assessing the bigger picture. How do economic and environmental costs compare with each nicotine hit? Which costs a higher toll to your health? Answering these questions and analysing the answers should guide us through the smoke and mirrors, to find savings in new and surprising ways.
How Much Does Smoking Cost?
In the year 2000, a pack of cigarettes cost around £3.70 in the UK. A pack of 20 King Size cigarettes now costs over £11, according to the Office of National Statistics. Britain is one of the most expensive places to smoke in the world, and costs are only increasing. This trend spans beyond 20 years ago and shows no sign of stopping.
Smoking a pack a day costs over £3,000 a year, according to ASH (Action on Smoking and Health). For that price, you could take a holiday, buy a car, or worry less about bills. Obviously, this cost varies depending on what a smoker smokes and how often. Premium cigarettes cost more than standard cigarettes which cost more than rolling tobacco and so on. No matter what you're smoking, however, the act itself creates a plume of hidden costs.
The Hidden Costs of Smoking
Deodorants, aftershaves, and even whiskies often advertise tobacco aromas in their products. The truth is, however, tobacco smoke stinks and stains. Smokers often spend more on oral products to maintain white teeth and fresh breath, from teeth whitening to chewing gum. Some even buy extra deodorants sold with tobacco scents to cover up the scent of their tobacco. These costs, and the cost of time to use them, add up on a yearly scale.
If you smoke, you may notice brown tar stains forming on your nails. If you smoke in the car, tar will build up in the interior. If you smoke in the house, tar forms on the walls, ceiling, furniture and fabrics. Washing and cleaning these stains costs time and money. Not washing them lowers the value of whatever you've stained, and could deter a buyer altogether. In the short term and the longer term, smoking burns cash.
Smoking Through Time
Of course, its not just cleaning time used up by smoking. Anti-smoking ads often use clips of a wheezy smoker Dad struggling to keep up with his kids. This slowness stands in for the general life-slowing action of a smoking habit. It costs time, and time is money.
Decades-long smokers might wake up every day and cough for five minutes, and spend a couple of extra days ill every year. A 2007 study found that smokers take 2.7 sick days more than their non-smoking colleagues annually. Time goes up in smoke. Extra time off work might seem like good news, but the bad news is precious hours of your life spent unwell. From slowing down the pace to forcing earlier retirements, smoking costs time, time and time again. This affects smokers on an individual level, and also brings a communal impact on the whole economy.
Smoking and the Economy
Smoking costs the UK economy more than £11 billion every year, according to the government. Of that total, a £5.3 billion burden falls on employers from smoke breaks, sick leave and early retirement.
The tobacco industry indirectly costs the NHS around £2.5 billion through smoking-related hospitalisation and medication. The majority of these expenses go towards heart or lung obstructions, or cancers. When times of crisis stretch the economy, and health crises stretch the NHS, unhealthy citizens become more costly than ever.
Smoking, COVID, and the NHS
In 2020, the UK needs the NHS more than ever. Smoking weakens immunity against the COVID-19, and it worsens the effects of the virus. The Coronavirus continues to stress the NHS and the economy while creating job uncertainty and a global recession. Every penny spent on smoking becomes dearer to the individual and the community in an unprecedented way.
Environmental Costs of Smoking
Cigarettes didn't create the only significant smoke of 2020. Though January seems a world away, it was still this year and started with devastating bushfires in Australia. Similar fires broke out in America in autumn, and both were fuelled by climate change. Smoke creates climate-altering emissions, and the tobacco lifecycle is an environmentally costly process.
From seed to cig, each tobacco strand wastes essential resources and creates toxic by-products. On top of that, almost half of the economic cost of smoking comes from cleaning up cigarette butts and putting out their wildfires. The industry creates about 680 million kilos of waste every year, chiefly their non-biodegradable filters. Vaping, on the other hand, features durable and recyclable hardware. Comparing the ecological cost of smoking to vaping is no contest.
How Much Does Vaping Cost?
Vaping, like any worthwhile expense, pays off in the long term. The cost varies on preference and consumption, like smoking. Unlike smoking, however, vaping costs come in two forms: hardware and consumables.
Vaping Hardware Costs
Vaping hardware includes the mod, the tanks and the battery. With these purchases, you get what you pay for. High-end gear lasts longer and offers better performance. A decent setup will last a year at the very least, and longer if you look after it.
Hardware also includes the coil; the heating element used to vaporise the liquid. Depending on how often you use the vape, a coil needs changing every couple of weeks. Even so, a year's worth of hardware costs far under £100, and probably close £50.
The main vaping consumable is the flavoured, nicotine-y e-liquid. Again, the cost varies with usage and depends on the types and the strengths of juice involved. Most average users get through around 10-20 millilitres a week. At rates like that, you're looking at a similar cost to the yearly hardware bill. A constant, heavy vape user might break the £500 mark in yearly consumables, but the heaviest smoker might do that in a month. Before you even look at the economic, environmental, or health costs, the simple answer as to 'is vaping cheaper than smoking' is yes.
Is Vaping Cheaper than Smoking - Conclusion
Vaping is classed as a therapy to treat smoking addictions. With vaping, you can smell better, spend better, and live better. Vaping also lowers your environmental impact on the planet. As taxes and environmental issues both increase further into the 2020s, vaping offer a future-proof and cost-kind tool to quit smoking but keep the nicotine for now.