CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The average West Virginia smoker should expect to spend nearly $119,000 to support that habit over the next three decades, according to a new study.
The Health Statistics Center at the state Department of Health and Human Resources released a study Thursday detailing how much the average West Virginia smoker could spend on cigarettes over a lifetime.
It found that between 1980 and 2009, the average smoker, who consumes one and a half packs per day, spent about $31,000 on cigarettes. In 2009 alone, that smoker spent $2,121.
Over the next 30 years, the average smoker will spend about $119,000 on cigarettes - roughly equivalent to the cost of buying a small house.
Officials are hoping sticker shock inspires some to consider kicking the habit.
"We know that this is a horrible addiction - it's the hardest addiction in the world to break," said Bruce Adkins, director of the state Division of Tobacco Prevention.
"But one of the things that we know that drives people to quit is the cost - especially in today's health and economic environment."
West Virginia has the second highest rate of adult smoking among the 50 states.
Nearly 366,000 adult West Virginians smoke - about 25.6 percent of the adult population. In 2009 alone, those smokers bought about 210 million packs of cigarettes.
The study does not include the estimated 23,400 children under the age of 18 who smoke.
While tobacco usage is expected to drop over the next three decades, prices are not.
The average price of a pack of cigarettes has risen steadily over the years - from 64 cents in 1980 to $3.70 in 2009 - driven by inflation and rising taxes.
If current trends continue as expected, a pack could set the average smoker back by $14.82 by 2039 - a conservative projection, according to the study.
By then, smokers could expect to spend more than $8,100 a year if they continued the pack-and-a-half-per-day habit.
Adkins said he hoped putting it in terms of dollars and cents would open the eyes of many adults who have yet to be swayed by the traditional health arguments.
"We've got unfortunately some of the worst health issues to deal with in the country," he said. "We've made great headway with our kids, and now this is a different approach to help our adults quit and hopefully get that section of the population healthy as well."
Getting adults off tobacco could have a trickle-down effect through their households and the rest of the economy, Adkins said.