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Report: Tennesseans' Health, Money Literally Go Up in Smoke

Tennesseans are paying more than $1 million over their lifetimes to smoke, according to a report released this week. (Una Mateo/Flickr)
Tennesseans are paying more than $1 million over their lifetimes to smoke, according to a report released this week. (Una Mateo/Flickr)
January 18, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Among the items on hundreds of Tennesseans' New Year's resolution lists are promises to quit smoking.

But a new study by survey giant WalletHub gives a $1 million reason why the state needs to kick the habit.

In the report The Real Cost of Smoking by State, analysts rank the state sixth-lowest in the country in terms of smoking's cost, which is estimated to be more than $1.1 million over a lifetime.

Analyst Jill Gonzalez says while the Volunteer State is among the cheapest for smokers, it costs in the long run.

"Either way, you're looking at over $1 million lost essentially, over the course of a lifetime, so it's definitely cheaper to be a nonsmoker in every state," she states.

In addition to the cost of the habit itself, smokers pay more than $122,000 for related health care and lose almost $200,000 in wages.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 percent of adults smoke in the Volunteer State.

Data from 2009 – the most recent available – show that more than half of adult smokers made an attempt to quit.

Gonzalez says studies like this one are important to understand the cost to the larger community.

"Obviously, there's an increase in insurance premiums when you're a smoker,” she points out. “We look at income loss per smoker, and a lot of that is due to people seeing smokers go on breaks more – that leads to smaller raises, lost promotions, et cetera."

One piece of positive news regarding smoking trends: CDC data released in 2017 showed that teen smoking rates have hit an all-time low. Between 2011 and 2016, smoking declined among middle- and high-school students.

The Tennessee Department of Health offers free help to people who want to quit. The number for help is 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN