SALT LAKE CITY — Utah loses approximately $2 million in economic and societal costs for every smoker in Utah, according to a new report.
A pack-a-day habit over several decades, health care costs that can go with it, lost productivity at work and the impacts of secondhand smoke all add up. WalletHub calculates that individual Utah smokers spend $38,542 per year on the hard-to-quit habit.
The personal finance company, based in Washington, D.C., hopes that publishing the potential losses for smokers will encourage the estimated 37.8 million Americans who smoke to quit.
"It can take multiple tries to quit," Joseph Lee, an assistant professor of health at East Carolina University, told WalletHub in its latest report, The Real Cost of Smoking by State.
"The approach that definitely fails is not trying again," he said.
The average tobacco user will attempt to quit eight to 11 times before successfully stopping smoking — as it is a hard habit to break, said Utah Tobacco Prevention and Control Program spokesman Ryan Bartlett.
"Without any help at all, only about 7 to 8 percent of smokers are successful at quitting," he added.
The state provides resources in the form of coaching to help you quit and other support, as well as patches and lozenges to replace a smoker's dependence on nicotine.
Quitting, Bartlett said, "is an individual decision," not something the Utah Department of Health forces upon the people of Utah. Smokers, he said, often have to weigh their addiction against the cost of continuing the habit, and what it might do to their overall health.
Bartlett said research has shown that people who smoke have a lower overall quality of life. The average age that smokers die in the United States is 69, according to WalletHub's statistics. The company, which produces research reports on a variety of topics, ranks Utah No. 34 in the nation in terms of the cost of smoking.
Utah has about 195,000 smokers — or about 9 percent of the total population — according to 2017 health department data, Bartlett said. It's a lower number than in other states, but the smoking rate is higher in some communities within the state.
Smoking also causes an average 1,340 deaths in Utah each year, he said.
Recent behavioral health survey results show that 70 percent of Utahns who smoke would like to quit, but don't know where or how to get help, or they are so addicted, they don't see it happening, Bartlett said.
More than 21,000 people visited waytoquit.org, the state's stop-smoking resource, last year. And, in 2018, 4,877 Utahns registered for help to quit smoking.
"The program is successful," Bartlett said, adding that quitting successfully will undoubtedly improve a smoker's overall quality of life.
"The health department encourages people who are smokers, or who have people who smoke tobacco in their family or friendship circles, to visit waytoquit.org for the help they need to quit," he said. The mission of the state agency's Bureau of Health Promotion, Bartlett said, is to increase health and mitigate injury and disease, or anything that might harm Utahns, including smoking.
Smoking doesn't only have disadvantages to physical health, but leads to lost opportunity and productivity at work, forfeiture of available home insurance credits for nonsmokers and creates problems for victims of secondhand smoke, WalletHub states.
Since 1964, smoking-related illnesses have claimed more than 20 million lives in the U.S., 2.5 million of which belonged to nonsmokers who developed diseases merely from secondhand-smoke exposure, according to the report.
The biggest headaches of smoking, however, are the economic and societal costs associated with the pervasive habit, which WalletHub estimates to be more than $300 billion a year and rising.
The lifetime out-of-pocket cost per smoker in Utah, the personal-finance website reports, is $127,513.2 comments on this story
It estimates that Utahns who smoke lose $5,226 per year in potential income, and cost their employers more, because of absenteeism due to smoking-related health problems. Smokers also spend $2,924 annually in health care expenditures related to cigarette use.
"Direct medical costs to treat smoking-connected health complications are one of the biggest financial drains caused by tobacco use," the report states.
All that money, invested over time, would have had a much greater return, resulting in a missed financial opportunity, according to WalletHub.
For help to quit smoking, visit Utah's waytoquit.org or call 1-800-QUITNOW.