I have had a few cigarettes sparingly since my first taste at 15 years old, but started smoking more heavily when I lived in Europe this past year. Though smoking in general is much more commonplace in Europe than in the United States, I came back to find that it is actually quite characteristic of many cities here, as well, including Santa Cruz.
This realization came to me around the same time that my lungs began to beg for fresh air and I could no longer ignore the growing holes in my pockets from my disgusting habit. I stopped for selfish reasons, but we could all do with a little adjusting to our way of life in order to keep exorbitant health care costs down: not only do unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking contribute to a poor lifestyle, they also end up costing the individual making them, as well as those surrounding the individual, money. Here is why:
Smoking cigarettes is literally money down the toilet: Brett Blumenthal, a contributor to Yahoo’s online health and wellness magazine Shine, recalls a major campaign in the subways of New York City totaling the amount of money individual people spend on cigarettes and thus could save if they stopped. These ads often equated the cumulative amount over a year to the price of a vacation. Today, a pack of cigarettes costs about $4. If you consume a pack a day, it would cost you almost $1,500 a year. But remember: the $1,500 is just the cost of the habit, not the cost of the potential diseases or conditions that may become a result of your habit.
The less healthy you are, the more time you will take off work: This means less income, if you are limited to a certain number of sick days and go over that limit. Because very few of Americans have full-coverage insurance plans, each visit to the doctor, each procedure that is require inevitably requires money out of your own pocket.
How these individual lifestyle choices affect everyone’s healthcare costs: Wellness Council of America President Dr. David Hunnicut interviewed Dr. Steven Aldana, a distinguished wellness speaker, regarding the vast amounts of healthcare costs, which can be minimized by the decisions of individuals in our country. Aldana presents some startling statistics. It turns out that more than 70 percent of our healthcare costs are specifically related to lifestyle decisions:
• Aldana explains that the annual healthcare costs specific to obesity-related disease and health issues, all of which are considered preventable, represents about $150 billion or about 12 percent of our healthcare costs.
• Smoking-related illnesses account for $96.7 billion in healthcare, or approximately 8 percent of healthcare costs
• Sedentary lifestyles account for 15 percent of all healthcare costs. It turns out that only 20 percent—25 percent of the population achieves the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Furthermore, other preventable conditions aside from smoking make up an additional 40 percent of our healthcare costs
• In total, all of the above is related to 75 percent of our healthcare costs. Also, 70 percent of American deaths are attributed to strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and cancer, all of which can be influenced significantly through lifestyle choices.
Do these statistics surprise you?