If health risks can't convince you not to start smoking, maybe future poverty will. The financial costs of this nasty habit are far more than the cost of a pack of cigarettes. Smokers pay more for insurance, dry cleaning, and dental care. Their homes and cars have less resale value and they are at higher risk of having a fire.

Smokers also don't make the bucks. They earn less and receive less in pension and Social Security benefits. They often have to pay additional premiums for insurance coverage. And they may have trouble getting a job. More and more employers are announcing they will no longer employ smokers.

  • Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Michigan stopped hiring smokers for full-time positions at both its Michigan campuses.
  • Alaska Airlines requires a nicotine test before hiring people.
  • Union Pacific won't hire smokers.

Don't miss the rest of our series on 15 Ways to Ruin Your Financial Future!

So why on earth do people ever start smoking? That's easy--to feel "cool." I should know, I am an ex-smoker. Like most smokers, I started as a teenager. Approximately 80% of smokers start in their teens and the American Lung Association estimates that every minute four thousand eight hundred teens will take their first drag off a cigarette.

I remember my first drag. Some kids were passing around a cigarette and I tried it. I was hooked almost instantly and up to a pack a day within months. I felt cool and wiser when I smoked and it helped me belong with a group at school. Like most teenagers, I didn't worry about the health implications, those problems were a million years away.

But I quickly discovered that I couldn't quit. By my late teens, I was a regular smoker at 1 1/2 packs per day. I had frequent colds, sinus infections and other problems. I would quit for awhile and then relapse. I even quit for three years at one point and made the mistake of bumming a cigarette at a party. I was back smoking within 24 hours.

Finally, in my late twenties, I quit for good. I am very grateful that my risk for smoking related health problems like cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, stroke, leukemia, and more is dramatically reduced. But I have to be honest, there are times I still crave a butt.


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