Moneywise guide to giving up smoking

16 December 2009

We all know that smoking is expensive - not to mention bad for your health - but many people put off quitting because of the cost of nicotine replacement therapy.

If you're determined to kick the habit, then the good news is that it doesn't have to break the bank.

In this article, I look at the true cost of smoking, what help is available to help you stay smoke-free and the financial benefits of quitting.

The cost of smoking

There are many health benefits to ditching your smoking habit, from younger looking skin to more energy and a better sense of taste and smell. And, on top of the health benefits, you can save a lot of money too.

A 10-a-day habit currently costs £20.30 a week, going up to £88 a month, while smoking 20 a day would cost you £40.60 a week and £176 a month. The annual cost is even more shocking: £1,055 based on 10 cigarettes a day or £2,112 if you smoked 20 a day.

This money could instead be used to clear your debts, boost your savings or individual savings account, or even pay for a holiday.

The NHS website, Smokefree, has a useful calculator that reveals exactly how much your habit costs you, and what you could do with the money.

For example, a 20-a-day smoker who spends £6.50 per packet could the £2,372.50 they (literally) burn each year to buy seven weekend breaks in Paris. 

Using the money to clear debt may make even more sense. If you only make the 2% minimum monthly repayment on a credit card with an APR of 18%, then it would take you an astonishing 31 years to pay off a balance of £2,000. During that time you will have paid a whopping £4,931.11 in interest.

However, by using the £200 you’ve saved each month to repay your debt, you can pay off the same balance in just 11 months. The total interest you will have paid will also fall to £183.25.

The hidden costs

After 12 months without smoking, life insurance and critical illness providers will class you as a non-smoker, which should reduce your premiums.

Critical illness cover of £100,000 for a 30-year-old male smoker over the next 25 years would cost £44.60 a month with Legal & General, but only £25.70 for a non-smoker - a saving of £5,670 over the full term.

Meanwhile, a 30-year-old male smoker would pay £14.32 a month for life insurance (£150,000) from Royal Liver  - compared to £8.84 a month if he was a non-smoker. That's a saving of £1,644 over the 25-year term of the policy.

For older smokers, the benefits are greater. According to LifeSearch, a 40-year-old smoker would pay £34.10 a month for the same life insurance. His non-smoking counterpart would pay just £17.77 - nearly £5,000 less over the term.

If you already have a policy in place but have since stopped smoking, it's worth reviewing your existing cover or setting up a new arrangement.

However, Matt Morris, senior policy adviser at LifeSearch, says: “It is important to make sure you have a new policy in place before cancelling the existing one, as a new policy could turn up some nasty surprises in underwriting and may even be declined if your health has changed.”

How to quit

For some, the only way to give up smoking is to go cold turkey. However, such an abrupt approach doesn't work for everyone.

There are a range of treatments available that help you quit – according to Smokefree, using these can double your chances.

The most popular aid to giving up smoking is nicotine replacement therapy.

Nicotine replacement therapies
Nicotine gum When chewed, nicotine is absorbed through the lining of your mouth
Nicotine patches Can be worn around the clock or just during the day

Microtabs Dissolve under your tongue

Lozenges Suck to release nicotine

Inhalators Similar in appearance to cigarettes, these release a nicotine vapour
Nicotine nasal spray Delivers nicotine through your nose
Source: Smokefree

Like cigarettes, nicotine replacement therapies contain nicotine but are free from toxic tar and carbon monoxide, and therefore do not cause cancer.

Smokefree says that while most people can take nicotine replacement aids, you should check with your doctor first – especially if you are pregnant, have a heart or circulatory condition or take regular medication.

Nicotine replacement therapies are available on the NHS, so for many people they will be free.

Even if you have to pay for your prescriptions, this cost is cheaper than buying nicotine replacement therapies directly from a pharmacist - just 30 pieces of chewing gum from Nicorette costs £5.75 from Boots, for example.

There are two alternative medicines to nicotine replacement therapy.

The first is Zyban, which is only available on prescription. This treatment changes the way that your body responds to nicotine, according to Smokefree, so can help you through withdrawal cravings. It is not available to pregnant women.

The second alternative is Champix – a prescription pill that reduces your cravings and the effects of not smoking. However, be aware that this drug dogged in controversy following reports of adverse effects including suicidal thoughts and depression.

Speaking to your doctor will also ensure you get the treatment best suited for you.


Using NHS support alongside medication can further improve your chances of successfully giving up smoking. The NHS has a free smoking helpline (0800 169 0 169) that is open seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. You can also find lots of advice on quitting on the Smokefree website – including free support material.

The NHS recently launched a new free kit to help people quit smoking. The NHS Stop Smoking Quit Kit includes a tool to help smokers realise the financial cost of cigarettes, plus calming audio downloads and a stress toy.

The NHS runs free local support in its Stop Smoking Clinics – search for one in your area on the Smokefree website. These provide the chance to talk with a trained adviser will can help you plan and prepare to quit, as well as group sessions to provide motivation.

If you’d prefer one-to-one advice, speak to your local clinic and see if you can arrange an appointment with an adviser for individual support. Some clinics also provide free nicotine replacement aids.

The NHS also provides support at home through its Together Programme. This includes support material, text alerts, emails and even phone calls to answer your questions. You can sign up on the Smokefree website.

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