Stop smoking or blow up a Porsche?

As a teenager, I remember seeing a commercial which showed a smoker blowing up a Porsche 911 cabriolet as a high-impact visualization of the opportunity cost of smoking from an economic point of view. What a bunch of hog wash. They should have blown up a few more Porsches to make it realistic.

According to the Smoking and Health Action Foundation, the average carton of cigarettes costs between $70.18 and $106.09 depending on the province or territory you live in. If we average those extremes, we end up with a cost approaching 45 cents per cigarette since a carton contains 200 cigarettes.

I’ll make some simple assumptions for my own high-impact analysis: our smoker starts smoking a pack a day at 15, pays $9.00 for a pack, and the long term, after-inflation rate of return of a moderately aggressive portfolio that they could have directed their money to is 3%. That works out to over $375,000 of opportunity cost in today’s dollars by the time he or she reaches 65.

If you want to play with the variables, you can download a copy of the “cost of smoking calculator” here. If you want to figure out the value with today’s purchasing power of a dollar, just subtract an estimate of the long term inflation rate from the portfolio’s annualized rate of return.

But even this analysis is too simple. What other costs do you incur as a smoker that you wouldn’t if you were smoke-free? How about insurance premiums. Not only does life insurance cost more because your risk of dying is higher, even your home insurance costs more because you are more likely to set your house on fire.

Your home value can be affected too. Either you take a hit on the home’s value for smelling like smoke, or you spend money getting rid of the smell for when you put it on the market. Ditto for your car. We haven’t even discussed health costs which not only affect you financially, but more importantly, physically.

They say quitting smoking is harder than quitting heroin. Well, I say blowing up a flat-six powered German automobile is sacrilege, and you could effectively being blowing up a small fleet of them the longer you smoke.


Preet Banerjee
Preet Banerjee an independent consultant to the financial services industry and a personal finance commentator. You can learn more about Preet at his personal website and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.
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Showing 4 comments
  • bigcajunman

    … and the nice part about this is you aren’t blowing up a Porsche with you in it (effecitvely) (i.e. you get to keep your health as well).

    • Preet

       @bigcajunman The only way I would be fine with a porsche blowing up is if the engine gave out. While I was on lap 50 of the Nurburgring. I wouldn’t *like* it, but I’d be fine with it.

  • shawn

    I remember that commercial too, I actually found this site looking for it (the video). The “visual impact” has stayed with me all these years even though I remain a smoker. Looking back I wish I had managed to quit along time ago because I could have easily owned that Porsche by now.

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