Is Your Pack-a-Day Habit a Vice, or an Opportunity?

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Vices. We've all got them, or at least been tempted by them from time to time.

Whether your poison is a pack of smokes, a six-pack of Bud, a cup of coffee, or an ice-cold Coca-Cola, succumbing to your vices -- or succumbing to the temptation to start one -- can cost you.

How much? That's the question that a new micro-site that recently popped up on the eBay (EBAY) Deals Blog proposes to answer.

Titled simply, it poses visitors a series of six questions:
  • How many cigarettes do you smoke?
  • How much coffee do you drink?
  • How often do you drink alcohol?
  • How often do you eat fast food?
  • Do you buy Lotto tickets?
  • How many sodas do you drink in a week?

Tallying up the answers, and assuming the reader isn't fibbing, COYV then proceeds to crunch some numbers and break the bad news to the respondent.

"The true cost of your vices is ... X." (In the case of yours truly, for example, it's $4,521 annually, with the dread coffee bean bearing most of the blame.)

But that's really just the beginning of the story.

Beware the 'Secondhand Smoke' of Vice

COYV doesn't simply calculate your vice-oriented checkout receipt. At the bottom of each page of COYV's online questionnaire you'll also find a small infographic explaining the cost of that vice on society at large.

For example, according to COYV (and varying, one presumes, with state and local taxes), smoking a pack of cigarettes a day is likely to cost you $511 a year. But the cost of smoking to the nation as a whole approaches $196 billion annually in unnecessary health-related expenditures. And believe it or not, the effect of alcohol consumption on the economy is even higher, with COYV postulating total costs of $223 billion annually.

To put those numbers in perspective, COYV calculates that college students in America spend only $22 billion annually on tuition, room, and board. The implication being that if we, collectively and as a nation, suddenly all quit drinking and smoking, we'd save enough money to put about 470,000 students through college.

We'd also finally know the answer to the question Adam Ant posed: "Don't drink, don't smoke -- what do you do?" Apparently, you pay to educate every young person in America.

There's Money to Be Made in Vices

Of course, there's another way you could spend all that loot saved from quitting your vices: You could invest the money in companies that sell to folks who don't quit. What could that get you? Here are a few possibilities:
  • Quitting a $511-a-year tobacco habit could buy you almost 14 shares of Altria (MO) -- every year.
  • $503 saved from switching from coffee to water could get you eight shares of Starbucks (SBUX).
  • More partial to burgers than java? Trading in a twice-a-week McDonald's habit could save $860 -- more than enough to buy eight shares of McDonalds (MCD) common stock.
  • Going cold turkey on even an occasional Coke habit ($165 a year) could pay for nearly four shares of Coca-Cola (KO).
  • Putting the brakes on your weekly beer run ($234 annually) could buy a couple of shares of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD).
  • And should you decide to stop throwing away money on a daily $1 lottery habit, you could save $365 annually.

On that last one, you should just hold on to that cash you save. I can't countenance investing that in lottery companies -- some vices are just too heinous to endorse.

Though he's afflicted by many of the vices covered in the COYV poll, there's at least one evil Fool contributor Rich Smith does not succumb to: the lottery. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola, eBay, McDonald's, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of eBay, McDonald's, and Starbucks.

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My wife quit cigs 30 year ago. She has saved a lot mula to say nothing of getting her lungs clean after the 17 or years she smoked. She quit cold turkey and has never looked back.

May 07 2013 at 1:38 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

A cheap pack of smokes is 6.00 around here,Times 365 days=2190.00.Now you're talking some real savings!

May 06 2013 at 6:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If everyone did as the author suggests, those corporations wouldn't exist because they wouldn't have any customers.The country would go broke without the federal taxes.

May 06 2013 at 5:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

For the absolutely cannot quit smoker, pipe tobacco can be purchased on line for around $32.00 shipped per pound and the average pipe smoker will use it in one month; $8 per week. Coffee at Sams Club works out at $17.00 for 2 .5 lb. or 20 cups a day for two weeks for a real coffee hound. $8.50 per week. (as good as the stuff Starbucks has the nerve to charge for). Avoid fast food and gut rotting sodas; adds a few points to the positive health deal. Get smart and stop paying the indirect state tax that is called the Lottery and reconsider booze. Folks do not seem to appreciate the damage alcohol does to families and individuals and the amount of lost production and increased medical costs it inflicts on us. A smoker may be considered a fool by some; a drunk making an idiot out of him or her self confirms that both are. And what about the ones that drive into another road user and wipe out the entire family. The anti-smoking brigade could really do some good if they now took on the booze corporations with the zeal and argument they used on the tobacco giants!

May 06 2013 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I tell smokers how lucky they are. They look at me funny and say "why". I say " cause if I smoked I'd quit and I'd be rich".

May 06 2013 at 3:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Where can you buy cigarettes fo $1.40 a pack?

May 06 2013 at 3:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

uuuuuuuuh exACTLY what IS the point of living,breathing and breaking yer@rse
IF a person CANNOT have the occassional drink or a smoke ?
enjoy a nice premium coffee every now and then ?
and if a person DOES smoke a pack a day whatever,WHO'S PAYING FOR IT ?
we ALL know these items are not for FREE.-

and all confirmed JUNK SCIENCE ADHERENTS
don't even BOTHER to bang back about the crapolla on SECOND HAND SMOKE as it REMAINS right UP THERE WITH GLOBULL WARMING and DDT -

and if you were so concerned you should be APPRECIATIVE that again.....according TO THEIR STUDIES
smokers drop dead earlier BUT PAID into social security etc etc and won't be around TO COLLECT .

May 06 2013 at 12:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to setanta54s_back's comment

Second hand smoke causes hangnails, doesn't it?

Statistics on death by smoke--first or second hand--are skewed. If someone who quit smoking 20 years ago notes that fact on a medical questionaire or someone who lives with a smoker notes that information, when they die the American Cancer Society and American Lung Association will tally them as "dead because of cigarettes smoking"...PS send money so we can pay our execs and put a couple thousand into crap science anti-smoking ads.

May 06 2013 at 1:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply