Personal Finance

Lifetime Smokers £500,000 Worse Off by Age 75

At around £10 per pack of cigarettes, smoking isn't cheap. In fact, the average smoker spends over £150 per month on cigarettes. However the financial cost to smokers is really shocking once you calculate the expense over a lifetime. Had they invested the £114,000 spent over 60 years on cigarettes instead of smoking it, a lifetime smoker could be better off by £500,000 by the time they turn 75.

How Much Smokers Smoke in the UK

On average, smokers in the UK light up 10.9 times per day, 332 times per month or 3,979 times per year. Men smokers smoke more than women smokers—11% more to be exact. And older people tend to smoke more than younger. For example, amongst men those aged 60+ smoke the most (14.9 cigarettes each day) while amongst women those between 50 and 59 years of age are the heaviest smokers (12.2 cigarettes per day).

Number of Cigarettes/Day by AgeMen SmokersWomen SmokersAll Smokers
16 to 24 years old9.47.28.5
25 to 34 years old11.39.210.3
35 to 49 years old10.710.710.7
50 to 59 years old12.512.212.3
60 years and over14.911.613.2
Overall11.410.310.9
Chart showing how much people smoke in the UK

How Much Smokers Spend on Cigarettes

A pack of 20 Stirling cigarettes, one of the most popular brands in the UK, costs around £9.24. When tallied up over a month, year or lifetime of smoking, the costs really rack up. For example, the average lifetime smoker would spend around £114,000 on cigarettes between the ages of 16 and 75.

AgeNumber of Cigarettes Smoked/DayMoney Spent on Cigarettes
16-248.5£1,433 per year
25-3410.3£1,737 per year
35-4910.7£1,804 per year
50-5912.3£2,074 per year
60 and over13.2£2,226 per year
Total spent, age 16 to 75£113,690 over lifetime

How a Lifetime Smoker is £500,000 Worse Off

While the money spent on smoking over a lifetime (over £100k) is shocking on its own, the true financial cost of smoking is even higher. If a smoker invested their smoking money each year instead of puffing it away, they could have nearly £500,000 tucked away by age 75, assuming 4.5% annual after-tax returns. Money invested when you're young can grow substantially over time due to compounding—earning returns not only on the money you invest (e.g., the money not spent on cigarettes each year) but also on the returns from previous years.

Chart showing how much money people spend on smoking over their lifetimes

Even those earning lower rates of return could have a significant pot of money set aside—for comparison sake, 3% after-tax investment returns would still yield £288,000 by age 75, had someone invested their money instead of buying cigarettes.

Methodology

To understand how much people smoke in the UK, we first analysed data from the Office of National Statistics according to different age groups. We then applied the cost of a pack of 20 Stirling cigarettes from Tesco (£9.24) to the average amount smoked in each age group, to see how much people spend across the years and over a lifetime of smoking.

In order to calculate how much a lifetime smoker could have in wealth by age 75 had they not smoked, we assumed that at the end of each year they invested the money they would have spent on cigarettes and that they started smoking at age 16. We used an investment return rate of 4.5%, which is less than the 6.4% average FTSE return over the past 25 years to reflect taxes or suboptimal investing. Of course, there is no guarantee that historical returns will be repeated—someone achieving a lower return would have less money by age 75, someone achieving a higher return would have more money by age 75. You can see how the data for how wealth accumulates over time in the table below.

AgeWealth, beginning of yearInvestment gains (4.5% annual after tax returns)Money saved instead of smokedWealth, end of year
16£-£-£1,433£1,433
17£1,433£65£1,433£2,931
18£2,931£132£1,433£4,496
19£4,496£202£1,433£6,132
20£6,132£276£1,433£7,841
21£7,841£353£1,433£9,628
22£9,628£433£1,433£11,494
23£11,494£517£1,433£13,445
24£13,445£605£1,433£15,483
25£15,483£697£1,737£17,917
26£17,917£806£1,737£20,460
27£20,460£921£1,737£23,118
28£23,118£1,040£1,737£25,895
29£25,895£1,165£1,737£28,797
30£28,797£1,296£1,737£31,830
31£31,830£1,432£1,737£34,999
32£34,999£1,575£1,737£38,311
33£38,311£1,724£1,737£41,772
34£41,772£1,880£1,737£45,388
35£45,388£2,042£1,804£49,235
36£49,235£2,216£1,804£53,255
37£53,255£2,396£1,804£57,456
38£57,456£2,586£1,804£61,846
39£61,846£2,783£1,804£66,433
40£66,433£2,989£1,804£71,227
41£71,227£3,205£1,804£76,236
42£76,236£3,431£1,804£81,471
43£81,471£3,666£1,804£86,942
44£86,942£3,912£1,804£92,659
45£92,659£4,170£1,804£98,633
46£98,633£4,438£1,804£104,876
47£104,876£4,719£1,804£111,399
48£111,399£5,013£1,804£118,217
49£118,217£5,320£1,804£125,341
50£125,341£5,640£2,074£133,055
51£133,055£5,987£2,074£141,117
52£141,117£6,350£2,074£149,541
53£149,541£6,729£2,074£158,345
54£158,345£7,126£2,074£167,544
55£167,544£7,539£2,074£177,158
56£177,158£7,972£2,074£187,204
57£187,204£8,424£2,074£197,703
58£197,703£8,897£2,074£208,673
59£208,673£9,390£2,074£220,138
60£220,138£9,906£2,226£232,270
61£232,270£10,452£2,226£244,948
62£244,948£11,023£2,226£258,197
63£258,197£11,619£2,226£272,041
64£272,041£12,242£2,226£286,509
65£286,509£12,893£2,226£301,628
66£301,628£13,573£2,226£317,427
67£317,427£14,284£2,226£333,937
68£333,937£15,027£2,226£351,190
69£351,190£15,804£2,226£369,220
70£369,220£16,615£2,226£388,061
71£388,061£17,463£2,226£407,749
72£407,749£18,349£2,226£428,324
73£428,324£19,275£2,226£449,824
74£449,824£20,242£2,226£472,292
75£472,292£21,253£2,226£495,772

Limitations of this study

For our calculations we assumed that a lifetime smoker smokes according to current smoking rates for each age of life, using the most recently available Office of National Statistic data from 2017. However, since smoking rates have trended down over time it's possible that the numbers in this study are too low for older generations and too high for young generations. Similarly, the cost of a pack of cigarettes changes over time—using the current cost of £9.24 across all ages will hopefully produce a reasonable metric for the average cost of a pack of cigarettes over the life of an average smoker today. Finally, there is of course no guarantee on investment returns—we selected 4.5% as a reasonable approximation given FTSE returns over the past 25 years, but ultimately this exercise is for illustration purposes only.

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