I started smoking in sixth grade, ’cause it was cool. All the cool movie stars did it (in those days, even John Wayne lit up now and then, right before he would coldcock some wannabe bad guy), and most of all, the cool kids at my school. I started out with Salem, because it was infinitely easier to swipe one of my Dad’s, than to buy, hide and transport a pack of my own. Besides, my Dad was pretty cool in his own right, so it MUST have been a good brand, right?
One of my buddies usually had a pack of Benson & Hedges, and was willing to share, so it didn’t take me too long to realize that menthol wasn’t exactly my favorite thing to set on fire and inhale. In those days, of course, I was only smoking two or three cigarettes a day. It wasn’t until Jr. high school that I started buying my own, and was soon smoking nearly a pack a day. Back then, a pack was slightly less than a quarter… about the same as a gallon of gas. I guess it’s a good thing nobody ever suggested to me that it was cool to inhale flaming gasoline!
By the time I was in high school, I was going through 1-1/2 to 2 packs a day of Marlboro, and paying around a buck a pack. But when I graduated, and joined the Navy, two things happened. First, I could then buy a carton for around $4.00 at the Navy Exchange, and second, I started smoking a lot more. At one time, I approached four packs a day.
After a few years, a new brand came out, called More. They were 120 mm long, and brown (just like the little stogies Clint Eastwood smoked in A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More, so you know THEY were cool!). Unfortunately, they had a tendency to go out, if you stopped puffing on them for more than a few seconds. I stuck with More for probably three or four years, until the President of the company I worked for decided to help a bunch of us stop smoking. I went through the program, and quit for six months, until one night, bellied up to a bar, I saw that the bartender had a stack of various brands of cigarettes next to the register. I bought a pack, and tumbled ass-over-teakettle off the tobacco wagon.
That was back around 1975 or 1976, I suppose. And by that time, cigarette taxes had increased astronomically, and a pack of coffin nails was running around $2.50. In no time, I was back up to two packs a day, spending twenty times what I had when I had started, eleven or twelve years earlier. I think everyone figured that smoking had gotten about as expensive as the government could make it, so those that hadn’t already quit, weren’t likely to do so for strictly economic reasons.
Little did we know! NEVER underestimate the government’s ability to go beyond the expected!
Within a few years, I was paying $3.00, then $3.50. Eventually, $4.00 a pack was the norm. A couple of years ago, they reached $5.00, and I have recently seen them as high as $6.50 in some places!
Yet, for me, economics hasn’t entered into it. I am going through about three packs a day, at around $5 per pack, which is 60 TIMES what I used to spend, so it pisses me off. But who should I be pissed at? The government? Sure, I AM, but nobody held a gun to my head, did they? Besides, there are plenty of other, perfectly valid reasons to be angry with the government.
But for the first time, I have a “smoker’s cough“. Now, you might think that a reasonably intelligent person wouldn’t wait so long to recognize that a habit like smoking isn’t good for his health. You might think, huh?
Taking a look however, at the financial side of it, I did some quick, conservative estimates, and here’s what I came up with:
Basing my average consumption, over the years, at two packs a day,
and the average price I paid, over the years, for a pack of cigarettes, at $2.50 per pack,
46 years, X 365 days X 2 packs X $2.50 = $83,950.00!
That is very nearly what I paid, for my first two homes, COMBINED!
So, between the cough, and the staggering amount of money I’ve already wasted on acquiring that cough, I think it’s time to quit!
Any helpful hints will be greatly appreciated. ‘Cause I doubt it’s gonna be easy.